Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been actively working in a covert manner to fight back against the American public’s ability to get secret CIA documents declassified, known as the Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR).
Without any notices for public comment, the CIA printed a two page document in the Federal Register on September 23, 2011 which radically changed the MDR process, and not for the better.
These two pages made it so that overnight the costs associated with MDRs were raised to such a ludicrously high degree that it prohibits all but the wealthiest individuals from pursuing such a review.
The reviews now cost those who request them up to $72 per hour. That cost remains the same even if no information is found, or if they decide not to release the information.
This is being done likely because the MDR process is the best weapon we, as the American public, have to force the government to be transparent.
The Obama administration has done a phenomenal job of showing that they abhor transparency (despite the campaign promises) as seen here and here and this is just another incarnation of this abuse of secrecy.
The National Security Archive accurately points out, “Mandatory Declassification Review is an extremely powerful tool because it eventually allows declassification decisions to be removed from the control of the overly-secretive CIA and decided by an independent, rational, democratic, outside entity.”
In another piece published on February 21, they also write, “It’s hard to imagine that these fee hikes are anything other than an attempt to dissuade people from filing MDRs,” and I completely agree.
When they can’t completely ban people from engaging in the process, they can circumvent this by simply making the costs prohibitive for most Americans.
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t risk $72 per hour on top of $15 just to have the CIA tell me that they won’t release anything.
The high costs discourage people from even beginning the MDR process, which prevents the cases from making it all the way to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) which has a record of reversing CIA denials over 65% of the time.
Obviously the CIA would rather avoid having anything go that far, so placing high costs to even begin the process cuts down significantly on the amount of cases that will ever actually reach the ISCAP.
In an attempt to find out the justification for this ludicrous regulation, especially during the reign of Obama’s “open government,” the National Security Archive filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the CIA for all “emails, memos, position papers, power point presentations, and reports” pertaining to the CIA’s decision regarding the fee changes for MDRs.
As you can see in the following image from the FOIA request, the National Security Archive said that even if the CIA believes that any of the documents are exempt from the FOIA’s disclosure requirements, the CIA should “nonetheless exercise your discretion to disclose them.”
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I share the hope with the National Security Archive that their FOIA request will help expose some of how the CIA justifies making what they call “horrible, counter-productive transparency decisions.”
I think we all know that the CIA has no interest in being transparent, as it would likely tarnish their image and greatly reduce their ability to conduct questionable operations around the globe.
In response to this latest assault on transparency and our right to know what our government is doing in our name, OpenTheGovernment put up a petition on February 15 which I highly recommend you take a moment to sign.
Even though I’m not one to think that the government will actually pay attention to petitions (just look at how they’ve been dismissing most of the WhiteHouse.gov petitions to see this), it certainly can’t hurt to raise awareness and put some pressure on our corrupt government and their abuses of secrecy.
While some might not consider filing a FOIA request to be “fighting back” per se, there’s not much else we have in our arsenal to push back against the behemoth and overly powerful CIA. I laud them for their efforts, as I think anything we as the American people can do to take our government back is desperately needed.