Thursday, September 25, 2008
A good alias can be hard to pierce.
A federal judge has made it harder for author Jefferson Morley and Salon.com founder David Talbot to investigate, as U.S. District Judge Richard Leon put it this week, alleged "connections between CIA operatives and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy."
Sexy stuff, if true.
But in an opinion quietly issued Wednesday -- and by "quietly issued," I mean I just discovered it -- Leon summarily dismissed Morley's and Talbot's Freedom of Information Act request for certain State Department documents concerning former CIA officers David Morales and George Joannides. The authors had originally sought code names, passport records, visa documents, aliases and more. This is part of a complicated story, the gist of which can be seen here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jefferson-morley/#blogger_bio The State Department eventually coughed up some passport material, but refused to confirm or deny the existence of any aliases for the two ex-spooks.
In his eight-page ruling, available here: https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2007cv0277-34, Leon declared that "the existence or non-existence of the requested material is exempt from disclosure" under FOIA. Leon approvingly cited the testimony of State Department privacy officer Margaret Grafeld, who declared that the confirmation or denial of the use of aliases could "seriously damage the ability of the United States to conduct covert intelligence-gathering activities." Leon further said it didn't matter that the CIA itself had previously acknowledged use of aliases by Morales and Joannides.