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Am. Civil Liberties Union v. CIA, No. 15-5183, 2016 WL 2772304 (D.C. Cir. May 13, 2016) (Edwards, S.C.J.)


Am. Civil Liberties Union v. CIA, No. 15-5183, 2016 WL 2772304 (D.C. Cir. May 13, 2016) (Edwards, S.C.J.)

Re: Request for report authored by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding CIA detention and interrogation program

Disposition: Affirming district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Procedural Requirements, "Agency Records":  The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit holds that "[o]n the record before [it], the Senate Committee's intent to retain control of the Full Report is clear."  "The Full Report therefore remains a congressional document that is not subject to disclosure under FOIA."  The court explains that "the critical evidence in this case is the June 2009 Letter from the Senate Committee Chairman and Vice Chairman to the Director of the CIA."  "The Letter, in straightforward terms, makes it plain that the Senate Committee intended to control any and all of its work product, including the Full Report, emanating from its oversight investigation of the CIA."  The court finds that "[t]he Letter's command is unequivocal, and it contains no temporal limitations."  Responding to one of the requesters' arguments, the court finds that "[i]t does not matter that the Full Report was neither stored on the CIA's segregated network drive nor kept in the CIA's Reading Room."  Additionally, the court relates that, "[i]n an effort to avoid the clear terms of the June 2009 Letter, [the requesters] argue that the circumstances surrounding the transmittal of the Full Report to [the CIA] demonstrate that the Senate Committee intended to relinquish its control over the Full Report."  "[The court] disagree[s] because the Committee's limited transmittal of the Full Report – especially in contrast with its public release of the Executive Summary – in no way vitiated its existing, clearly expressed intent to control the Full Report."  The court reasons that "[the requesters'] argument seems to be premised on an assumption that, when Congress transmits documents to an agency, it must give contemporaneous instructions preserving any previous expressions of intent to control the documents in order to retain control over the documents."  "This is not the law."  The court also finds that "[w]hen Senator Feinstein [subsequently] transmitted the draft of the Full Report to the Executive Branch on December 14, 2012," which "according to [the requesters], gives proof of Congress' intent to abdicate control over the Full Report," "her transmittal letter made it clear that the Committee would determine if and when to publicly disseminate the Full Report."  "Finally, [the requesters] claim that the Chairman's Foreword to the Executive Summary, which encouraged '[t]his and future Administrations [to] use this Study to guide future programs, correct past mistakes, [and] increase oversight of CIA representations to policymakers,' is evidence of the Committee’s intent to relinquish control of the Full Report."  "This argument, which relies on a glaring non sequitur, obviously cannot carry the day."
Court Decision Topic(s)
Court of Appeals opinions
Procedural Requirements, Agency Records
Updated January 21, 2022