Major ruling in Knight FOI Fund-supported case

COLUMBIA, Mo. (August 26, 2013) — In a major ruling in a case supported by the Knight FOI Fund, a Washington DC-based federal district judge has ruled that the Central Intelligence Agency cannot use the CIA Act of 1949 as a catchall rationale for avoiding disclosures under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell, which may or may not be appealed, is a victory for attorney Kel McClanahan and Virginia-based National Security Counselors, which had been awarded grants from the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) to support the legal action it began in 2011.

But in forcing the federal spy agency to re-examine its broad interpretation of its nondisclosure prerogatives under FOIA, information-seeking efforts by scores of other historians, journalists and researchers may also be affected.


Ken Bunting, executive director of the University of Missouri-based NFOIC, called the ruling “an important victory for transparency” and said his organization and the Knight FOI Fund were happy they had a hand in helping National Security Counselors win the case.

“Congress never intended for intelligence agencies to have a carte blanche, blanket exemption from FOIA. This is an important ruling that will stifle the CIA in its long-running efforts to create such a blanket exemption out of whole cloth,” Bunting said.

See the full release and opinion here.