Jeffrey Scudder’s career-destroying FOIA submission

Jeffrey Scudder

Jeffrey Scudder

“Soviet Television – a New Asset for Kremlin Watchers,” was the title of an old CIA file over which career CIA project manager, Jeffrey Scudder, lost his job, according to a story in the Washington Post.

After realizing the agency hadn’t released the document and 1,600 other historical documents of interest that had been cleared for release when he worked in CIA’s Historical Collections Division, Scudder submitted a FOIA request to the CIA to get the documents released. Even though the CIA did release some of the documents, it nevertheless had the FBI investigate Scudder and conducted its own investigation. Last summer, the CIA pushed him into early retirement from the Agency.

“I submitted a FOIA and it basically destroyed my entire career,” the Washington Post quotes Scudder.

Either the CIA felt the need to prevent Americans from learning it used to watch TV to learn about the CIA’s top spying target, or it had to punish Scudder for using a legal tool to bring that to the public. Whichever it is, however, it’s just the latest example of the kinds of persecution the government subjects employees to for bringing transparency to U.S. intelligence agencies.

First it was leaks to journalists, then it was publication under one’s own name, then pre-clearing conversations about unclassified material, and now FOIAs!

I will cover that kind of targeting of truth tellers – and the flip side harassment of journalists – in this space. The government, often aided by corporate interests, would like to throw things like its historical TV-watching and its torture down the memory hole. And to do so, it increasingly shuts down the legal avenues designed to shine a light on government.

About Marcy Wheeler

Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler writes the "Right to Know" column for ExposeFacts. She is best known for providing in-depth analysis of legal documents related to "war on terrorism" programs and civil liberties. Wheeler blogs at emptywheel.net and publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon and the Progressive. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy. Wheeler won the 2009 Hillman Award for blog journalism.