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Drone documents case: federal appeals court rules against CIA

Judge rejects CIA argument that it had no 'interest' in lethal drone strikes. He called the CIA argument neither logical nor plausible, since US officials have acknowledged involvement.


Pakistani villagers rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, to condemn US drone attacks along the Afghanistan border in this Dec. 10, 2010 file photo. The head of a U.N. team investigating casualties from US drone strikes declared on Friday that the attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty. Also on Friday, a US court of appeals ruled against the CIA over drones documents.

B.K. Bangash/AP/File

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A federal appeals court on Friday ordered the Central Intelligence Agency to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents related to the use of drone aircraft in targeted killings overseas.

The CIA had initially responded to the Jan. 2010 FOIA request by stating that it would neither confirm not deny the existence of any documents at the agency related to the secret program.

A federal judge accepted the argument and dismissed the FOIA request in Sept. 2011.


The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the request, appealed.

The appeals court decision sends the case back to federal court where the CIA will be required to present a list of documents potentially relevant to the ACLU’s request. 

The decision doesn’t mean the ACLU will necessarily gain access to any or all documents.

But the decision is significant in a broader way.


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