Court Orders CIA to Acknowledge Drones

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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) must acknowledge whether an armed drone program exists, a federal appellate court ruled on Friday.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took the CIA to court after filing a Freedom of Information request about drone strikes overseas. The CIA denied the request, saying it could not release any documents because even acknowledging the existence of the program would harm national security.

“The existence or nonexistence of CIA records responsive to this request is a currently and properly classified fact, the disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security,” the CIA argued to the court, which initially agreed.

But on Friday, the appellate court overturned the earlier decision, noting that President Obama and other senior intelligence officials have talked openly about drone strikes in recent months, undercutting the CIA’s argument that acknowledging its role in the operation could harm national security.

“The defendant is, after all, the Central Intelligence Agency. And it strains credulity to suggest that an agency charged with gathering intelligence affecting the national security does not have an ‘intelligence interest’ in drone strikes, even if that agency does not operate the drones itself,” Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland wrote.

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