Judicial Watch, Inc. v. CIA, No. 17-00414, 2018 WL 746087 (D.D.C. Feb. 7, 2018) (Cooper, J.)
Re: Request for unclassified version of assessment of Russian interference in elections across Europe that was purportedly read by Representative Mike Turner and later referenced in December 2016 Wall Street Journal article
Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment
- Exemptions 1 & 3, Glomar: First, the court holds that "Defendant has met its burden of proving the applicability of Exemption 1." The court relates that "[defendant] . . . stated in [its] declaration that the existence or nonexistence of this information 'is currently and properly classified' under Executive Order 13526, and that its disclosure 'could reasonably be expected to cause damage to national security because such an admission would reveal broader intelligence priorities of the Agency and sensitive details about the CIA's intelligence methods and activities.'" Similarly, the court holds that "Defendant has met its burden of proving the applicability of Exemption 3." The court relates that "the CIA invokes the National Security Act of 1947, which requires the Director of National Intelligence to 'protect intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure.'" "[Defendant's] declaration explains that acknowledging the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to Plaintiff's FOIA request would 'reveal intelligence sources and methods, which the National Security Act is designed to protect.'"
The court relates that "[plaintiff] challenges the CIA's Glomar response by arguing that the Agency has already publicly acknowledged the existence of the requested document in two ways: (1) in a January 6, 2017 report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence about Russian activities in recent U.S. elections; and (2) through the existence of a statute that requires the Director of National Intelligence to submit an 'intelligence community assessment on the funding of political parties and nongovernmental organizations in former Soviet States and countries in Europe by the Russian Security Services since January 1, 2006.'" The court holds that, "[f]irst, the 2017 Assessment was based on information compiled from three intelligence agencies, so it does not definitively prove that the CIA was the agency responsible for the particular conclusion about Russia's influence on European elections." "But even if the 2017 Assessment did prove that the CIA was responsible for that information, it still does not amount to a public acknowledgment that can overcome a Glomar response." "This is because Plaintiff requested a specific document: 'a copy of the unclassified assessment or report identified in the Wall Street Journal article.'" "And nowhere does the 2017 Assessment acknowledge the existence of a CIA report assessing Moscow's interference in foreign elections." "The only person alleged to have acknowledged the existence of that report is Congressman Mike Turner when he spoke to the Wall Street Journal." "Needless to say, this does not constitute a public acknowledgment by the Agency." Second, "like the 2017 Assessment, the June 2016 Report was compiled by the 'intelligence community' rather than the CIA specifically." "So its existence does not prove that the CIA in particular had any information relevant to Russian interference in European elections." "And it certainly does not prove that the CIA has the specific report assessing Russia's interference in foreign elections referenced in the 2016 Wall Street Journal article." "In short, while it may be that the CIA does in fact have the report referenced in the Wall Street Journal article, the Court’s inference that a record exists cannot stand in for a Plaintiff’s showing of an official acknowledgement."