When the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s FOIA office in the Records Management Division prepares to release a file that it deems significant, newsworthy or controversial, it issues what’s known as a High Visibility Memoranda. These memos, circulated to different parts of the Bureau and often to the Director’s Office as well as outside agencies, outline the proposed releases and their possible fallout. A recent release of over 500 pages of these memos serves as a list of files for FOIA requesters to file new requests for so the files can be published online, as well as showing government reactions to the requests themselves.
To Kill a MOCKINGBIRD: Recently released records dispel old myths surrounding CIA program targeting journalists
A review of a file released to MuckRock on Project MOCKINGBIRD sheds new light on a Central Intelligence Agency program of domestic surveillance that targeted a pair of journalists. In the process, it dispels old myths, highlights and clarifies an error in CIA’s Family Jewels and an omission in the Rockefeller Commission’s Report. The file also reveals that the CIA’s surveillance of the journalists resulted in recording phone conversations with members of Congress - possibly including the Speaker of the House.
Forty years ago - in the aftermath of a very public American reckoning with the nation’s Intelligence Community that featured the Watergate scandal, the Church and Pike Committees, and the Rockefeller Commission - President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12036 on January 24th, 1978, placing additional restrictions on the Central Intelligence Agency’s ability to operate in the United States.
Soon after legendary spymaster and CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton’s intelligence career supposedly ended with his forced retirement in December 1974 due to the exposure of CIA wrongdoing, he returned to the Agency, where counterintelligence operations reportedly remained under his purview until late 1975.
As a result of the failure by the Senate Intelligence Committee to restore the GAO’s authority to audit or review the Central Intelligence Agency, by the next year that immunity had spread to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which had assumed some of the Agency’s responsibilities in coordinating the Intelligence Community. Like CIA, the ODNI cited a legally dubious position in a 1988 letter from the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel stating that the GAO had no authority to look at anything relating to “intelligence activities.” Also like CIA, the ODNI used a such a broad definition of intelligence activities so that “by definition” they were categorically exempt.