Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice are fighting a journalist’s request for a copy of a congressional report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation policies.
DOJ lawyers argue that although the department has a copy of the 300-page executive summary, the government does not “control” the document. In court papers filed on Jan. 24, attorneys for the government asked U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to dismiss the Freedom of Information Act suit.
Jason Leopold, an independent investigative journalist, filed a FOIA request for a copy of the executive summary of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation activities. Leopold sued in September 2013 after the department allegedly missed the deadline to respond to his request.
Although the Justice Department, along with other executive agencies, received copies of the report, lawyers for the government urged Boasberg to consider how and why the Senate committee distributed the report in deciding who controlled it.
The Senate committee provided the report in order to receive comments and edits before issuing a final version and didn’t intend to give up control of the final product, wrote Vesper Mei, senior counsel in the federal programs branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
Mei noted the Senate committee restricted access to the report—only 11 individuals in the Justice Department had access to it—and, as a result, it wasn’t widely available within the department or integrated into the agency’s records systems.
“Here, even to retrieve the SSCI Report for processing and review under the FOIA, much less to disclose it, would be contrary to FOIA itself as well as to the terms and conditions under which Congress shared the document with the Department of Justice, and would undermine the prerogative of the legislative branch to control its own record,” Mei wrote.
Leopold is represented by Washington solo practitioner Jeffrey Light. Leopold has until Feb. 14 to respond to the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss.