Secrecy: FOIA

A Letter from Michael Pompeo

By Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, January 3, 2018, 3:01 PM

I was surprised to find in my mailbox this morning a small package from the CIA. I was even more surprised to find within it a letter to me from CIA Director Michael Pompeo himself. The contents of Pompeo's letter, which the CIA posted on its website as well, further surprised me.

Last month, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA for Pompeo's holiday message to the agency's workforce. I submitted it because I had heard grumbling from inside the agency that the message was inappropriately political and exclusionary. I made clear that I didn't know what was in the message. But I was wasn't the only one who heard complaints about it. Former CIA officer Ned Price tweeted the following about it:

I was not expecting a personal response from Pompeo, nor was I expecting such a quick response as I got. Here is the entirety of the communication, both Pompeo's letter to me and the underlying letter to the workforce:

For the record, I agree with Pompeo that there is nothing objectionable about this message and I'm surprised that it raised hackles within the agency. For her part, Susan Hennessey says that she does think it's a strange (though not necessarily offensive) message for an agency head to send out to the workforce, and that in her assessment, the fact that it contains an explicit Christmas message and prominently features Republican presidents might have caused a cautious NSA lawyer to at least flag the issues before it was sent. But to me it seems to me like a perfectly gracious expression of holiday good wishes. And I was frankly expecting it to be far worse.

As to Pompeo's accusation about me, I post all of my FOIA requests and will continue to do so. I will also always post all responses I get to them—whether they support or, as in this case, refute the premises that led me to submit them.

I look forward to trying his mother's fudge recipe.