NRO Operational Files Exemption in Dispute

01.31.06 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In the past, the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that develops spy satellites, has released unclassified portions of its budget request documents. But last year, the NRO refused to do so, claiming that these unclassified materials fall under the “operational files” exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.

A lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists is challenging that claim. The two parties have just finished briefing the case with replies to each other’s opposing motions.

“The defendant [NRO] has shown by a sworn declaration which is clear, specific, and reasonably detailed that the requested records are properly designated as operational,” the NRO concluded (pdf).

No, “since all parties agree that the requested record has been disseminated beyond its originating operational file, the conclusion is inescapable that the requested record must be processed under FOIA,” we argued (pdf).

At this point, the parties are largely talking past each other, and it will be up to the judge, the Hon. Reggie B. Walton, to resolve the dispute.

The latest pleadings in Aftergood v. NRO may be found here.

See all publications
Nuclear Weapons
New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship: Creative Perspectives on Rethinking Nuclear Deterrence 

To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.

11.28.23 | 3 min read
read more
Science Policy
Expected Utility Forecasting for Science Funding

Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.

11.20.23 | 11 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear Notebook: Nuclear Weapons Sharing, 2023

The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]

11.17.23 | 1 min read
read more
Social Innovation
Community School Approach Reaches High of 60%, Reports Latest Pulse Panel

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.

11.17.23 | 4 min read
read more