Putting TRAC to Work
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Newhouse News, Newhouse School, Syracuse University
December 14, 2015

TRAC lawsuit against the CIA pushes to keep government agencies accountable
By Kate Capodanno

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which is based in the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, is going to court again—this time against the Central Intelligence Agency. As a part of TRAC’s Freedom of Information Act Project, which began in January, the organization sends out quarterly FOIA requests to 22 federal agencies, including the CIA. TRAC’s FOIA Project keeps a quarterly record of all the instances the federal government provides or denies access to information under FOIA, says Susan Long, co-founder and co-director of TRAC. Long is one of the plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit filed in October to persuade the CIA to comply with the FOIA. Of the 22 agencies TRAC contacted, Long says the CIA was the only agency that out-right denied the request. “The law is pretty clear. The Freedom of Information Act does apply to the CIA,” Long says. “We are not asking about anything that is classified. We are just talking about the requests that are coming in and how they are processing them. It’s pretty simple.” In its FOIA requests, TRAC asks for basic information regarding how the federal agency is complying with FOIA. The questions focus on the number of FOIA requests the agency receives, the timeline in which the agency responds to requests and the size of the agency’s backlog, Long says. After its recent request was denied, TRAC filed an appeal so that the agency would reconsider the FOIA. In response, the CIA says it never gave TRAC the right to appeal so the appeal was closed, says David Burnham, co-founder and co-director of TRAC and the other plaintiff listed on the lawsuit. “The CIA is not exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, although they seem to be saying they are,” Burnham says.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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