Brennan Center for Justice v. Department of State
The Brennan Center has filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint to compel the Department of State to disclose records initially requested on January 31, 2014.
The request related to international executive agreements, which are similar to treaties except that they are either made under the executive branch’s sole authority or authorized pursuant to an up-or-down vote of both houses of Congress. The Brennan Center requested that the State Department produce records regarding international executive agreements that it has not published for national security reasons and the transmission of those agreements to Congress under the Case-Zablocki Act (1 U.S.C. § 112b). The Act establishes a “formal procedure for the transmittal to Congress of all executive agreements” to avoid the occurrence of “secret agreements” and maintain a “proper working relationship between the Congress and the executive branch in the area of foreign affairs.” The Brennan Center requested records showing the number of agreements withheld from publication from 1990 to the present, how many of those were not published for national security reasons, any unclassified reports submitted to Congress under the Case-Zablocki Act, and any policies on the interpretation of the relevant terms of the Act. These records would shed light on the extent to which these statutes permit the creation of secret law that is binding on the U.S. government and its citizens.
FOIA requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 days. The most recent estimated completion date provided by the State Department is April 2016, more than two years after the original request. As the agency constructively denied the request by exceeding the statutory deadline, the Brennan Center has filed a complaint with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia requesting immediate disclosure of the records.