PPSA Sues NSA, CIA, ODNI, Justice, National Records and State: "Has the Government Done Anything to Comply with Obama’s Executive Order on Classification?”
The Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability today filed a lawsuit against six federal agencies to compel them to reveal records mentioning the handling of policies governing classification decisions under Executive Order 13526.
President Obama issued this executive order in 2009, saying he was attempting to curb the breakneck growth of classified documents in the federal government by requiring agencies to create internal procedures to challenge improper classification decisions. In the president’s words, the agencies “must not withhold information for self-serving reasons or simply to avoid embarrassment.”
“Think us naïve, but PPSA thought at the very least we could discover how agencies responded to the president,” said Gene Schaerr, PPSA general counsel. “We want to ask if the agencies have done anything to comply with President Obama’s executive order.”
On Sept. 28, 2020, PPSA sent a Freedom of Information request to the six agencies asking for all records mentioning two sections of EO 13526 that limit classification decisions, covering a date range from Dec. 29. 2009 to Sept. 25, 2020.
The FOIA requests went to the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State and the National Archives and Records Administration.
“The FBI did reply that the request did not have sufficient detail, though it is hard to imagine how the request could have been more detailed,” Schaerr said. “The State Department similarly denied the request, saying that PPSA’s filing did not reasonably describe the records sought. The CIA and ODNI agreed to search for records, but haven’t actually disclosed anything yet.”
The Freedom of Information Act gives government agencies a maximum of thirty business days to comply with the request. All of these agencies well exceeded their time limit allowed under law.
“With none of the six agencies giving a substantive or credible reply, we’re filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel their disclosure,” Schaerr said. “We’ll report any significant responses or developments in court.”