Skip to main content

ACLU v. CIA, No. 11-5320, 2013 WL 1003688 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (Garland, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning "the use of unmanned aerial vehicles ("drones") to carry out targeted killings Disposition: Reversing district court determination that CIA properly asserted a Glomar response and remanding for "filing of a Vaughn index or other description of the kinds of documents the Agency possesses"
  • Glomar/Exemptions 1 and 3: The D.C. Circuit reverses the district court's determination that the CIA properly asserted a Glomar response in response to a request seeking CIA records concerning drone strikes. The court examines public statements made by several high level officials and says that "[a]lthough these statements do not acknowledge that the CIA itself operates drones, they leave no doubt that some U.S. agency does." Accordingly, the court holds that "[g]iven these official acknowledgements that the United States has participated in drone strikes, it is neither logical nor plausible for the CIA to maintain that it would reveal anything not already in the public domain to say that the Agency 'at least has an intelligence interest' in such strikes. . . . And it strains credulity to suggest that an agency charged with gathering intelligence affecting the national security does not have even an 'intelligence interest' in drone strikes, even if that agency does not operate the drones itself." The court leaves open the question of whether a "no number no list" response would be sufficient in this case since "[n]o government affidavit has yet been filed" justifying such a response. It notes that these issues should be considered by the district court upon remand.
Court Decision Topic(s)
Court of Appeals opinions
Exemption 1
Exemption 3
Updated August 6, 2014