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Katsiaficas v. CIA, No. 13-11058, 2017 WL 2172437 (D. Mass. May 17, 2017) (Burroughs, J.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Katsiaficas v. CIA, No. 13-11058, 2017 WL 2172437 (D. Mass. May 17, 2017) (Burroughs, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning 1961 South Korean coup d'état and the 1979 assassination of former-South Korean President Park Chung-hee

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that "[defendant's] [a]ffidavits sufficiently establish that the CIA conducted a search 'reasonably calculated to discover the requested documents.'"  The court finds that "[the] affidavits . . . describe the 'scope' and 'method' of the CIA searches in sufficient detail to satisfy the agency's burden of demonstrating a good faith search effort."  Finally, the court finds that plaintiff's claim that, "'[c]onsidering the extent of CIA involvement in South Korea during the time of Park Chung-hee's ascension to power and his assassination . . . [Plaintiff] does not believe that it is possible that the results are only such a small number of pages, and those pages only summaries of such a general nature[,]'" "is insufficient to rebut the presumption of good faith on the part of the CIA."
  • Exemption 1:  "[T]he Court defers to the CIA's judgment and accepts that the information has been properly withheld."  "Because the first two conditions of Executive Order 13526 – that an original classifying authority (here, the CIA) is classifying the information and that the information is owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the government – are undisputed here, the Court proceeds to a discussion of the third and fourth conditions."  "The CIA claims, and the Court agrees, that the information withheld here logically falls into the classification categories of intelligence activities, intelligence sources and methods, and foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States."  The court also finds that "the CIA asserts, disclosing currently withheld information 'could reasonably be expected to cause damage to U.S. national security and current foreign relations' despite the fact that the United States and South Korea are allies."  Also, the court relates that, despite the age of the information at issue, defendant stated that it "relates to 'CIA intelligence methods still in use, would reveal a confidential human source[,] or would reveal foreign government information that would impair the U.S. foreign relations with another country.'"
  • Exemption 3:  The court holds that "[p]laintiff's requested information 'at least arguably' falls under the National Security Act and the CIA Act, and Exemption (b)(3) therefore permits the information to be withheld."  The court relates that, "[w]ith regard to the National Security Act, the CIA states that '[r]evelation of the withheld information would disclose the CIA's intelligence sources and methods, which the National Security Act is designed to protect.'"  "With regard to the CIA Act, the CIA states that it is exempt from disclosures concerning the CIA's 'core function: intelligence collection through its intelligence sources and methods.'"
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 1
Exemption 3
Litigation Considerations
Updated January 31, 2018