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.