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Once again, this reaction cannot be laid entirely at FOA's doorstep, but it is the principal symbol to most. These examples demonstrate the chilling effect the Freedom of Information Act has had on our ability to collect intelligence. Mr. Chairman, we are expected to provide the best possible information to U.S. policymakers and the Congress. We are seriously hampered in achieving this objective unless we can give more certain guarantees to our sources that their information will be held inviolate.
Let me point to another aspect. As this Committee well knows, the vast majority of CIA information is properly secret and efforts to excise these secrets from documents not only involve the adverse effects of the perception of the risk of disclosure which I have already discussed, but also produces information, more often than not, out of context and therefore misleading and extremely small in comparison to the actual quantity reviewed. Of course, it is also possible that a sophisticated foreign intelligence service could piece together, from the bits and pieces of released information a larger portion of the entire picture regarding a particular intelligence activity or operation.
Mr. Chairman, my presentation to you would be incomplete if I left you with the impression that the sole problem created by the subjection of our records to the FOIA was one of perception. FOIA processing is, of course, carried out by human beings. This raises the possibility of human error and of faulty judgment as to what may and what may not be released in one or another situation. Mistakes, although few and far between, have been made and will, I fear, continue to occur no matter how much care we exert in processing requests.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, FOIA requests break down the CIA's system of compartmented records. Our compartmented records system allows only those with a genuine need to know to have access to one or another document or file. Under an FOIA request all records and files relevant to the particular request are drawn together. They remain together during the FOIA request, appeal and litigation process, thus giving them far wider distribution than they would normally have and that is consistent with good security practice. Thus we find the anomaly that FOIA is given a rank of importance higher than the need to know principle which is the underpinning of our informational security system.
As I stated, our principal concern with the FOIA is the chilling effect it has on our sources.
Before closing, however, I would like to share with you examples of some of the administrative burdens we face in endeavoring to comply with the act. In spite of the devotion of increased manpower coupled with efforts to improve our efficiency and productivity, we continue to receive a heavier volume of FOIA and Privacy Act requests than we can handle. In this regard, we receive over 4,100 Freedom of Information Act, Privacy Act, and Executive Order 12065 requests per year or about 16 per day. Our current backlog is over 2,700 unanswered requests.
We have many different record systems, as many as 21 of which may have to be searched in order to respond to a particular FOIA request. These divergent record systems, as I noted earlier, must be separately maintained because of the compartmented security system which we find essential.
The average cost of processing requests amounts to $800 each.
Many of our requests are sent to us via a form letter. For example, requests received from universities often follow this pattern and generally speaking are extremely broad, asking for "all information CIA has on relationships between CIA and the university and CIA and university staff or officials."
Other requests are of the curiosity variety. To most of these we are unable to provide documents but must, nonetheless, expend many fruitless man-hours in arriving at that conclusion.
Many are from foreigners, possibly representatives of hostil intelligence services and clearly some are from those whose apparent purpose in writing is to uncover information which would do harm to this Nation's interests overseas.
A number are from individual authors. In one case we have devoted the total efforts of one person full time for a period of 17 months. This again is for a single request by one individual.
In another area, we have already expended approximately 4 man-years on FOIA requests from Phillip Agee who, as noted earlier, is an admitted adversary of the CIA dedicated to exposing the identities of employees serving overseas. He does
that through the vehicle of this publication called the Covert Action Bulletin. You can see here the centerfold, the CIA, and the target of a bullseye. I would like to pass this copy around, and you can see the kind of information that is being put out, including the last section where they name names of CIA people overseas. It is in my judgement disgraceful that we should be asked to assist him in his endeavors.
During 1978 we spent 116 man-years working on requests for information under the disclosure statutes. By comparison, this expenditure of valuable human resources is greater than that spent on any one of several areas of key intelligence interest to the United States.
Thus, Mr. Chairman, the burden of the FOIA is also a problem for us and one, when coupled with the more serious problems I described earlier, in need of remedy. That remedy is difficult to fashion and we have given it a lot of
thought. We recognize the importance of maintaining the general FOI concept. We do not seek a total exemption from FOIA. What we really seek is a more effective way to assure our sources that we are doing what the 1949 CIA enabling act directs us to do, that is, protect them. We think we can achieve this objective, at least partially, by perfecting the relevant CIA Act provisions in a manner fully consistent with the spirit and letter of national security exemptions already in the Freedom of Information Act. At the same time we are also conscious of the competing needs of our U.S. citizens whose support and confidence we must maintain. It is for this reason that we believe that our files should continue to be accessible to American citizens and permanent resident aliens, subject to existing FOIA exemptions, to the extent that information concerning such persons may be contained in our files.
Mr. Chairman, while I am not a career intelligence officer, I have been associated with intelligence for a number of years as a Foreign Service officer. After 1 year in my current position, I can tell you in all candor that the erosion of our ability to protect our sources and methods, and more importantly, the larger than life perception of that erosion is the most serious problem the CIA faces today. If we do not solve it we cannot continue to be the best intelligence organization in the world.
If we believe we need intelligence then we have to accept some secrecy. FOIA has called into question around the world our ability to keep a secret. Its application in its current form to CIA is inappropriate, unnecessary in light of current oversight mechanisms, and harmful.
That concludes my prepared statement, Mr. Chairman. I am prepared now to answer whatever questions you and members of the committee may have.
Mr. MURPHY. Thank you, Mr. Carlucci.
The committee is interested in hearing how CIA files are arranged and how the FOIA requests are regularly handled.
Can you give us more of an idea of what happens when you receive a request?
Mr. CARLUCCI. Well, when we receive a request, we make an initial determination of whether it is an FOIA request, a Privacy Act request, a request that falls under the Executive order on classification of documents. The files are then searched by a dedicated staff in the Directorate of Administration. There are other staffs. They work with other staffs in our different directorates who are more familiar with the individual files. When the material is pulled out of the files, it then has to be reviewed by what I would call a substantive officer, somebody who is intimately acquainted with the subject matter. That means that people are diverted from their other activities to go through these files—and some of them are qrite extensive, as many as 600 or 700 documents in an individual file. The reviewing officer then makes a judgment on what can be released, including what are the segregable portions of the documents that can be released, and it is then returned to our information control staff for appropriate handling.
Let me ask, we have two people here from our information and privacy staff and from our Directorate of Operations, Mr. George Owens, in the first case, Mr. Robert Owen in the second case,
and see if they would care to add to the description.
Mr. Owens. Congressman, I might add a little bit to the fact that the initial request, when it comes into our office in particular, we look around the Agency in terms of what components, what organizations may have records responsive to the request. That can very frequently add to the number of places we can go. I can cite the maximum number that we could go to initially at this point has been roughly 21 different places we could go to. Those components, then, who are most familiar with their records and precisely what is contained therein then review their records. They will search for that documentation. Then they have to go through the very time consuming and cumbersome task of looking at all the information to make sure that it is responsive or can be released under FOIA. They identify the exemptions to us, return it to our office for final processing. We in turn return it to the requester, giving him the exemptions, if there are deletions from the documents
, or giving them in full if documents can be released in full.
Mr. MURPHY. Thank you.
Mr. Owens. Last year it was $2.9 million.
Mr. Carlucci. Just our agency, yes, sir, 116 man-years approximately. That is just personnel costs.
Mr. MURPHY. Mr. Carlucci, when you suggest that congressional oversight is the most appropriate way to assure accountability and legality in CIA activities, do you also agree that there should be explicit statutory authority making any CIA files available to these intelligence committees?
Mr. CARLUCCI. Well, we already have an executive order, Mr. Chairman, which indicates we should keep the committees informed. As you are aware, the administration has been working with the Congress in developing charter legislation, and we would expect that that provision, that issue would be addressed in charter legislation as well.
My own experience after a year in the Agency is that we are responsive to the oversight committees. We have provided vast amounts of information. I think the oversight process is working well. Where information might be particularly sensitive, I think the committee has recognized that and we have worked out solutions to those kinds of problems. So from our perspective, we think the current arrangement is working well, and we think the committee is being furnished sufficient information to do its job.
But that, of course, is a judgment that the committee can make better than I can make.
Mr. MURPHY. Mr. McClory, do you have any questions?
Mr. McClory. You indicated, Mr. Carlucci, the various types of inquiries that come to you, the demands that come to you under the exercise of the Freedom of Information Act.
What percentage of these relate to persons who are just trying to get information about themselves?
Mr. CARLUCCI. A very substantial portion of the requests relate to people who are asking us what do you have in your files about me? I don't know if we have an exact account, about 52 percent, sir.
Mr. McClory. What is your attitude with regard to that part of the Freedom of Information Act ? Does that impinge on the classified nature of your files ?
Mr. CARLUCCI. That is not our most serious concern, Congressman McClory. We are principally concerned about operational files which would reveal information to those who would do us harm. We think it is probably appropriate to continue to make our Agency responsive to the first person requests.
You will note that we have not asked for any kind of exemption to the Privacy Act either.
Mr. McClory. So if that authority remained subject only to your right to refuse to disclose sources and methods and identities, that would be a satisfactory solution of the present problem.
Mr. CARLUCCI. Yes, sir, it would.
Mr. McClory. I feel a principal part of our job here is to try to strengthen the intelligence agencies, including the CIA. I know that there has been a great deal of damage done, particularly as you indicated from unfortunate disclosures, some of which I am sure you can attribute to the Congress itself. I would hope that we could take some appropriate action on this committee. I am likewise aware, as you point out dramatically in your statement, that what we have done principally is to dry up foreign sources because it is our foreign contacts that don't understand this law and are fearful, and they place a much greater fear on their lives than our own citizens would be. I know that we have had in our own country the identity of intelligence people disclosed and we have killed their chances for covert activities. On the other hand, when that happens to a foreign source or a foreign resource, it is pretty serious, and not only is the person's life placed in jeopardy, but we cut off new sources of information.
Isn't that correct?
Mr. McCLORY. So that if we want to do a job of helping to strengthen the CIA and other intelligence agencies, we should take primary account of that and how we can, through amendment to the statute, protect those sources and encourage those sources to cooperate with us.
Mr. CARLUCCI. It is my personal view, Congressman McClory, that the perception abroad and to a certain extent in this country, that the U.S. Government cannot keep a secret, is the single most important issue that the Central Intelligence Agency faces, and if we are not able to deal with this issue and to deal with it rather rapidly, I won't think we can continue to maintain our position as the most effective intelligence organization in the world.
Mr. McClory. I think from the standpoint of a purely budgetary interest that we have—and I guess this has been discussed in another subcommittee of this committee—the fact that we are spending $2.9 million is of concern to us, plus the fact that the existing law continues as a handicap in connection with the CIA doing the full job that they want to do and that we want them to do.
Mr. Carlucci. The workload factor is one that of course troubles us. It is not the principal argument that we are making, but in terms of the workload—and I believe this will be addressed in subsequent testimony in more detail, we find that the courts are requiring us increasingly to justify our deletions, and to do so in an unclassified form.
So we get ourselves into a Catch-22 situation where we delete something and then the court says, well, you have to describe in your affidavit why you deleted it, and in so describing it, you may identify the very source that you have deleted, to say nothing of the added workload burden that this will impose on us as people have to go through the lengthy justification of each deletion.
This court decision, by the way, results from a lawsuit brought by two people whose names you will see on the masthead of the Covert Action Bulletin, Ellen Ray and William Schaap.
Mr. McClory. Now, the Phillip Agee publication, Covert Action Information Bulletin, is a commercial operation, a moneymaking operation which takes advantage of a statute which we enacted for the purpose of protecting individuals' civil rights.
Do they pay for the information they get, and how do we bill them, and who pays the bill ?
Mr. CARLUCCI. Well, of course, under the Freedom of Information Act, the requester is not required to pay if determination is made that the information is in the public interest, and the courts have taken a