There’s a running joke on both sides of the transparency community that the standards for secrecy are so absurd that “you could easily classify a ham sandwich.” And nowhere does that dictum ring more true than in regards to the Central Intelligence Agency, which has, on multiple occasions, classified ham sandwiches.
During my time at MuckRock, I’ve written extensively about the triumphs and tragedies of the Central Intelligence Archive cafeteria(s), including such FOIA favorites as “The Jazz Salad Incident,” “Bacon Accounting,” and “That Scene From Animal House But It’s All The Guys Who Couldn’t Kill Castro.” Before I go, I wanted to share one of my favorite finds from the CIA archives: The description of an employee’s aborted attempt to smuggle chicken out of the cafeteria in her purse.
After a 2016 Inspector General report in which Defense Intelligence Agency Deputy Director David Shedd defended his use of a government-issued vehicle to travel to and from restaurants by arguing that trips were necessitated by the poor food quality in the DIA cafeteria, JPat Brown filed a FOIA for the agency cafeteria complaints. After three years of processing, the DIA released 110 pages of responsive records - the most horrifying of which make it sound like Shedd might have had a point.
During its 70 year history, a number of coffee-related controversies have gripped the Central Intelligence Agency - but perhaps none of them had such long-lasting impact on the caffeination of our nation’s clandestine service as a year-long inquiry into the legality of using government funds to buy CIA employees their daily pick-me-up.
We’ve written about the CIA’s frustrations with its cafeteria before, with grievances both petty and the stuff of nightmares. But as internal records unearthed in CREST reveal, at least once that frustration exploded into a full-on mealtime melee.