WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court has reversed a lower court's decision that dismissed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA, ruling on Friday that it was neither "logical nor plausible" for the government to contend the agency had no interest in drone strikes.
"It is hard to see how the CIA Director could have made his Agency's knowledge of -- and therefore 'interest' in -- drone strikes any clearer," the ruling states. "And given these statements by the Director, the President, and the President's counterterrorism advisor, the Agency's declaration that 'no authorized CIA or Executive Branch official has disclosed whether or not the CIA ... has an interest in drone strikes,' ... is at this point neither logical nor plausible."
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing for information about the CIA's drone program. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that President Barack Obama "has himself publicly acknowledged that the United States uses drone strikes against al Qaeda" and that the government's position in the case was therefore unsustainable. A lower court will now have to sort out just what the government must disclose.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, who argued the case before the appeals court in September, called the decision "an important victory" that "requires the government to retire the absurd claim that the CIA's interest in the targeted killing program is a secret."
He also said the decision in ACLU v. CIA will make it "more difficult for the government to deflect questions about the program's scope and legal basis."
"We hope that this ruling will encourage the Obama administration to fundamentally reconsider the secrecy surrounding the targeted killing program," Jaffer said in a statement released by the ACLU. "The program has already been responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000 people in an unknown number of countries. The public surely has a right to know who the government is killing, and why, and in which countries, and on whose orders. The Obama administration, which has repeatedly acknowledged the importance of government transparency, should give the public the information it needs in order to fully evaluate the wisdom and lawfulness of the government's policies."