Of Secrets and Spies: Strengthening the Public's Right to Know About the CIA

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Halstuk, Martin E.; Easton, Eric
CIA; Central Intelligence Agency; Intelligence Reform Act; FOIA; Freedom of Information Act; Communications Law; Law
article description
The impetus behind the Intelligence Reform Act was to prevent another terrorist attack on American soil. The statute completely overhauled the United States intelligence apparatus, largely by amending the National Security Act of 1947, which created the CIA and established the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) as its head. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that by renovating the fifty-seven-year-old National Security Act to create a modern intelligence infrastructure, Congress has also paved the way for a new intelligence-information paradigm. For the last two decades, near-blanket CIA secrecy has gone largely unchecked, principally because of the Court's ruling in CIA v. Sims.The authors believe that Sims was wrongly decided in 1985, but this article asserts that, right or wrong, Sims is no longer controlling precedent when viewed in light of the Intelligence Reform Act. This Article asserts that the CIA's ability to deny FOIA requests should be sharply circumscribed in accordance with a new information paradigm of maximum dissemination as established in the Act.Part I discusses the FOIA, its statutory exemptions and its legislative history. Part II examines the Sims decision and argues that the Court's ruling contravened Congress's intent to require the fullest disclosure possible under the FOIA. Part III summarizes the changes established by the Intelligence Reform Act and examines the legislative history of the Act to clarify the plain meaning of its text. This Article concludes that the Intelligence Reform Act offers a new intelligence information policy that recognizes that carte blanche CIA secrecy has been outmoded and acknowledges that this nation has experienced a profound shift in terms of what the public has come to expect to know about what their government is doing in their name.