IN Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere the C.I.A. has used drones to kill thousands of people — including several Americans. Officials have aggressively defended the controversial program, telling journalists that it is effective, lawful and closely supervised.
But in court, the Central Intelligence Agency refuses even to acknowledge that the targeted killing program exists. The agency’s argument is based on a 35-year-old judicial doctrine called Glomar, which allows government agencies to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of the records that have been requested.
The doctrine sometimes serves a legitimate purpose, but the C.I.A. has grossly abused it, in cases relating to the targeted killing program and other counterterrorism operations. It is invoking the doctrine not to protect legitimately classified information from disclosure, but to shield controversial decisions from public scrutiny and to spare officials from having to defend their policies in court.