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SCHLESINGER v. CIA

March 5, 1984

STEPHEN C. SCHLESINGER, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FLANNERY

 This matter came before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff in this case seeks, through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), access to CIA records relating to the planning, financing and executing of the 1954 coup in Guatemala. The CIA contends that this information is protected by FOIA exemptions one and three. Plaintiff disagrees, and contends that the case in its current posture cannot properly be disposed of on summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court holds that summary judgment is appropriate, and grants defendant's motion.

 BACKGROUND

 The complaint in this case was filed after plaintiff exhausted his administrative attempts to obtain CIA records relating in any way to the 1954 coup in Guatemala. By letter dated July 12, 1982, after commencement of this action, the CIA provided plaintiff with 31 responsive documents. On September 30, 1982, after further searching, the CIA turned over 134 additional responsive documents. At a status conference shortly thereafter, plaintiff questioned the adequacy of defendant's search, and defendant agreed to institute a new and more thorough search. As a result of this search, defendant discovered a massive "operational" file, containing some 180,000 pages of documents concerning United States involvement in the coup, and so informed plaintiff and the court. According to plaintiff's counsel, defendant's attorney represented to him and others, prior to thorough review of the operational files, that the CIA would not disclose any of the documents therein, see Susman Affidavit at 4-5. Defendant's counsel informed the court on January 14, 1983, that the Agency had completed its review of the bulk of the materials and had concluded that it would not disclose any documents.

 On January 24, 1983, CIA Acting Deputy Director for Operations Clair E. George filed a public affidavit, wherein he stated that the disputed documents consisted "strictly of raw, operational documents compiled contemporaneously with the Agency's covert involvement in the 1954 Guatemala coup," and that the documents "reflect the specific and particular intelligence activities undertaken by Agency officers and assets, the methods utilized in the conduct of these activities, and the intelligence sources providing information to the United States." George Affidavit at 5. Mr. George declared that the release of any of the information in the file could reasonably be expected to cause damage, most probably serious damage, to the national security by

 
(a) revealing particular intelligence activities and methods of continuing utility to the United States;
 
(b) revealing particular intelligence sources who may remain in danger and which may inhibit prospective sources from agreeing to provide information;
 
(c) revealing capabilities and the extent of CIA knowledge which may negate current intelligence activities;
 
(d) officially detailing the nature and extent of the CIA role in the 1954 Guatemala coup, risking damage to American foreign relations throughout the world and particularly in Central America at this time in light of the delicate political situation in the Central American area;
 
(e) officially detailing the role undertaken and the assistance given by other foreign countries, risking damage to the foreign relations between such countries and the United States;
 
(f) providing significant foreign relations and propaganda advantage to hostile foreign governments who could use such information against the United States in their dealings with governments in Central America and elsewhere; and
 
(g) providing a significant counterintelligence advantage to hostile foreign governments who could use such information to counter current United States intelligence collection activities and objectives.

 Mr. George stated that he was "fully aware that significant information and speculation concerning the 1954 Guatemala coup is in the public domain," id. at 8, but stressed that the public presence of such unofficial information does not reduce the damage that would be caused by the official revelation of the requested information. Id. at 9-10. He also recognized that the United States Government has officially acknowledged "the fact that the Central Intelligence Agency had some involvement in the Guatemala revolution," but emphasized that "to the best of [his] knowledge, no other facts or details have ever been officially disclosed and confirmed." Id. at 9. He stated that the official acknowledgement "was very limited in scope and did not with particularity indicate or describe which, if any, military or political forces were supported or opposed, or what, if any, intelligence activities were undertaken by the CIA or others." Id. at 9-10. Mr. George concluded that any further ...


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