Appeals Court Rejects Ruling on CIA’s Refusal to Confirm it has Drone Records

Mike O'Brien

A federal appeals court has reversed the ruling of a lower court that allowed the CIA to refuse to confirm whether it had records on drones killing suspected terrorists.

A lower court federal judge had decided in favor of the intelligence agency and threw out a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that sought to view those records.

The ACLU invoked the Freedom of Information Act to make the request, but the CIA responded by saying confirmation of the existence of drone records would reveal classified information.

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The government subsequently backed off that claim during oral arguments before the appeals court, the Associated Press reports.

The ruling by a three-court panel in Washington on Friday sends the case back to the lower court. It is thought the CIA will argue that the information it has on drones are exempt from FOIA disclosure requirements.

The court order comes as the head of a United Nations agency that investigates human rights and counterterrorism declared that the United States is violating Pakistan’s sovereignty with drone strikes.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur for the group, issued the damning declarations after a secret trip to Pakistan to further research the issue.

Mr. Emmerson was told by Pakistan officials that they disapproved of the U.S. using drones to carry out attacks against identified terrorists.

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In the past four years the Obama administration has increased the number of CIA drone attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda militants in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Mr. Emmerson called for an end to those drone attacks.

He said: "It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states."

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