Court rejects CIA secrecy over records of drone strikes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 7:26am

A US federal court ruled the CIA can no longer refuse to confirm or deny whether it has records related to drone strikes, in a blow to the government's secrecy over the bombing campaign.

The Court of Appeals for Washington said the stance was no longer credible as President Barack Obama and a senior adviser had publicly acknowledged drone attacks on al-Qaeda suspects abroad.

The Central Intelligence Agency had argued it did not have to co-operate with a freedom of information request from the American Civil Liberties Union. It said that merely admitting whether it had documents on drone strikes could jeopardise US security interests.

A CIA official, Mary Cole, the information review officer for the spy agency's national clandestine service, insisted in a filing to the court "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".

But the three-judge panel concluded the CIA's stance was "not justified". Citing public statements from Obama and CIA director John Brennan, the court said "it is neither logical nor plausible for the CIA to maintain that it would reveal anything not already in the public domain" to admit that it has an interest in the drone campaign.