The Central Intelligence Agency will be required to disclose details of a botched and deadly 2017 Navy SEAL raid in Yemen, after a US district court granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records outlining the decision-making process and legality of the operation.
The CIA is accustomed to deflecting FOIA requests through the “Glomar response”, which asserts that the agency cannot confirm or deny the existence of certain information if its disclosure would compromise operations or sensitive intelligence.
A Glomar response is nullified, however, if an official acknowledgement of the existence of such information has already been made. This is precisely what happened when former White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly defended the raid to sceptical reporters, unknowingly handing the ACLU the admission it needed to win a request for records.
On 15 March 2017, the ACLU had filed a FOIA request with the