Court allows classified documents to be withheld

From Legalbrief Today:  The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the US Trade Representative (USTR) can legally withhold classified documents regarding free trade negotiations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), says a Jurist report.

US District Court Judge Richard Roberts ruled last year that the document should be released to the Centre for International Environmental Law, finding that there was no reason to justify withholding it. The Appeals Court, however, reversed the order and gave deference to the USTR’s judgment after determining that forcing disclosure of the classified position paper ‘could limit the flexibility of US negotiators’ in the future. The report notes that US courts have dealt with many FOIA cases recently, on both state and federal levels. In April the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously in McBurney v Young that Virginia has the right to exclude non-residents from accessing state records under its FOIA. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in March reversed a lower court ruling which allowed the CIA to refuse to confirm or deny whether it has records pertaining to the use of unmanned drones to kill suspected terrorists. The case arose from a FOIA claim filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requesting records on the CIA’s drone programme regarding the legal justification for using drones and information concerning civilian casualties. In March 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Milner v. Department of the Navy that the government may not withhold certain information under the FOIA.