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CIA Defends Practice of Giving Classified Docs to Some Reporters, Not Others

© AP Photo / Carolyn KasterThis April 13, 2016 file photo shows the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
This April 13, 2016 file photo shows the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. - Sputnik International
The CIA argued this week that it is well within its right for the agency to give selected classified information to reporters at the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York while withholding the same information from other reporters.

Adam Johnson, a contributor to FAIR Media Watch and the Los Angeles Times, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get a fuller picture of CIA materials he had obtained that were sent to three reporters without security clearances: Siobhan Gorman, who was at the Wall Street Journal at the time, the Washington Post's David Ignatius and the New York Times' Scott Share.

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The material was sent out to reporters, unredacted, but when a Freedom of Information Act request was filed, the spy agency instead gave Johnson a heavily redacted version of the email correspondence between the reporters and the CIA, according to Tech Dirt. Johnson then sued the agency for redacting information that was not redacted when it was sent to the reporters.

Last month a New York judge wrote that the "CIA voluntarily disclosed to outsiders information that it had a perfect right to keep private. There is absolutely no statutory provision that authorizes limited disclosure of otherwise-classified information to anyone, including ‘trusted reporters,' for any purpose, including the protection of CIA sources and methods that might otherwise be outed."

The judge continued: "The fact that the reporters might not have printed what was disclosed to them has no logical or legal impact on the waiver analysis because the only fact relevant to waiver analysis is: Did the CIA do something that worked a waiver of a right it otherwise had? The answer: [the] CIA voluntarily disclosed what it had no obligation to disclose (and, indeed, had a statutory obligation not to disclose). In the real world, disclosure to some who are unauthorized operates as a waiver of the right to keep information private as to anyone else."

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On Wednesday, the CIA fired back that it has not waived its right to keep certain information private after already making it public.

"The Supreme Court has recognized that the National Security Act grants the CIA ‘broad discretion' and ‘sweeping power' to protect intelligence sources and methods… The CIA properly exercised its broad discretion to provide certain limited information to the three reporters." the agency argued in a February 14 memo to the court.

Johnson has until March 1 to reply to the CIA's motion.

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