Washington, DC – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seeking access to records concerning the undue influence of political appointees in processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  The requested records were created by the CIA Office of Inspector General (OIG) but are accessible under FOIA through the CIA. The CIA is one of the few agencies that has refused to release the relevant records without sufficient explanation.

CoA Institute President & CEO, and former federal judge, Alfred J. Lechner, Jr.: “All federal agencies have the obligation to efficiently and effectively respond to FOIA requests. After three years, the CIA has demonstrated it has no intention of providing the requested documents in a timely manner. The current administration has neglected its duties under FOIA and allowed federal agencies to undermine transparency requirements. Despite numerous media reports that have criticized the Obama administration for its poor efforts to ensure transparency and openness, agencies continued to abuse the law and permit political appointees to insert themselves into the FOIA process.”

Congress requested the OIGs of several agencies to conduct audits of their FOIA programs looking into inappropriate influence of political appointees in the processing of records requests.  In two seperate FOIA requests, CoA Institute requested the CIA OIG’s final reports, but the agency has yet to produce the documents.  In one case, the CIA has stonewalled CoA Institute for three years and has twice indicated that it “will not acknowledge or respond to any additional queries regarding the status” of the CoA Institute FOIA request.

FOIA requires an agency to respond to a request within twenty business days or, in “unusual circumstances,” within thirty business days. Although President Obama came into office with promises of transparency, his administration’s actions have not matched such rhetoric.  Under a non-public 2009 White House memorandum, federal agencies were instructed to consult with Office of White House Counsel before producing any documents that involve so-called “White House equities.” The result of this memo is the unlawful expansion of White House control of agency FOIA processes and usurped agency responsibility for finalizing determinations.  Additionally, agencies have politicized FOIA processes by creating “sensitive review” procedures that permit political appointees and agency press officials to intervene in and obstruct the processing of FOIA requests.

In May, Cause of Action Institute filed a lawsuit against 11 federal agencies and the White House to end the Obama administration’s practice of delaying government responses to FOIA requests that the administration considers politically sensitive or embarrassing. Read more HERE.

To access the complaint filed today against the CIA click HERE.