Some of the most interesting FOIA stories come about because someone took the time to dig into tidbits that just flew under the radar for other people. Building a habit of thinking through what documents exist around a particular subject or story you’re interested in can lead to all sorts of revelations, and that’s particularly true with this week’s inspirational FOIA examples.
One of the dilemmas of reading declassified documents is that readers are constantly faced with the question of whether or not to take the exemptions at face value - after all, CIA redacts beer brands and cafeteria names while claiming to “protect sources and methods.” Doing so erodes faith in the Agency’s choices to redact certain pieces of information, creating a situation where one of two possibilities are likely: that the CIA chose to improperly redact information to protect itself from embarrassment regarding improper activities, or that some of those activities are still seen as at least potentially valid.
When J. Edgar Hoover forced William “Bill” Sullivan, the Bureau’s domestic intelligence chief, into retirement he set into motion a chain reaction which nearly forced him into retirement as well.
A formerly SECRET memo from the White House shows that not longer after Seymour Hersh published an expose in the New York Times about the domestic operations of CIA, President Ford met James Schlesinger, the Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director to discuss the allegations. When asked about the Agency’s role in Watergate, Schlesinger confessed “there is a layer in the Agency which you can never really find out what is going on.”
In 1981, CIA’s Director of Public Affairs took exception with newspapers reporting that Frank Sturgis was a former CIA employee - such a problem, in fact, that he wrote to the editors of several newspapers to try to issue a correction. There was just one problem: recently declassified records show that it was the truth.