Historical Documents Withheld Under FOIA’s Sprawling B5 Exemption Could be Freed

13 June 2016 — National Security Archive

FOIA Reform Passed Today by Congress would Mandate 25-year Sunset for B5 Exemption

Next Step is President’s Desk 

View the posting

Historical documents – like the CIA’s history of the Bay of Pigs invasion — will no longer be able to be hidden under FOIA’s B5 exemption if the President signs FOIA reform passed today by Congress. The bill (S. 337) was introduced by Senators John Cornyn, Chuck Grassley, and Patrick Leahy, in the Senate, and supported by Representatives Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings in the House. The bill is on its way to the President’s desk – and the White House has indicated the President will sign it.

If President Obama does sign the bill, agencies will no longer be able — among other things — to abuse FOIA’s “deliberative process” exemption to withhold historical documents 25 years or older. This means that:

The CIA will no longer be able to withhold a draft history of the 53-year-old Bay of Pigs invasion under B5. The National Security Archive sued the CIA under the FOIA for the history, but the CIA argued — and won — that releasing the documents would “confuse the public.”

The Department of Energy won’t be able to hide a 1978 letter from former Los Alamos National Lab director Harold Agnew to the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy director Frank Press on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in full under B5 – even though the document is segregable and contains information that is already public knowledge thanks to previous State Department publications on the same subject.

The State Department will not be able to delay the release of Henry Kissinger’s historical notes of telephone conversations on B5’s pre-decisional grounds. 

Check out today‘s posting at the National Security Archive

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THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

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