Alex Constantine - October 3, 2013
MANHATTAN (CN) - One man's 30-year quest for information about a Nazi spy came to an end after a federal judge ruled that the U.S. government adequately provided him the information he sought.
Beginning in the '70s, Carl Oglesby, who died in September 2011, "relentlessly pursued" the story of Gen. Reinhard Gehlen, who served as chief of the Gehlen Organization, a Nazi spy ring during World War II. Gehlen later allegedly negotiated an agreement with the United States that allowed his spy network to continue despite denazification programs. The group was reportedly reconstituted as a functioning espionage network under U.S. command.
Oglesby claimed that control of the organization shifted back to the West German Federal Republic after 10 years of American control. Gehlen died in Starnberg, Germany on June 8, 1979.
Oglesby sued the federal government in 1987 to challenge several government agencies' responses to his Freedom of Information Act requests submitted in August 1985. Aron DiBacco and Barbara Webster, the domestic partner and daughter of the now-deceased Oglesby, sought to replace him in the case in 2011. The request was granted.
But U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ended their quest last week.
"The court finds the defendants have met their burden to show ... that the CIA and the Army conducted adequate searches for responsive records, and that the NSA, the CIA and the Army properly withheld certain information to various FOIA exemptions."
Seeking records on Gehlen, Obglesby submitted FOIA requests in 1985 to the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Departments of the Army and State, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Archives and Records Administration.
Along with information about Gehlen, he also wanted records on meetings held in Virginia in the summer of 1945 between Gehlen and U.S. Army General George Strong and the Office of Strategic Services officer Allen Dulles; records of the U.S. Army's "Operation Rusty," carried out in Europe between 1945 and 1948; records on post-war Nazi German underground organizations; records of the OSS' "Operation Sunrise;" and records of Gehlen's relationship with William J. Donovan and Allen Dulles, and records on the Nazi underground organization "La Arana.'
The agencies responded by releasing 384, redacted pages, but withheld other documents.
Oglesby sued in December 1987, and 2ruled in the federal agencies' favor. The DC Circuit remanded the case and instructed Oglesby to exhaust his administrative remedies. Oglesby did so, and again challenged the agencies' responses, but the District Court again ruled in defendants' favor, concluding that each had conducted an adequate search for the requested documents.
Oglesby again appealed, arguing that the CIA and the Army failed to show they conducted adequate searches, and that the CIA, Army and NSA failed to justify their withholdings. The DC Circuit agreed.
In October 1998, President Bill Clinton signed into law the "Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act," which required the federal government to locate, declassify and release "in their entirety, with few exceptions," remaining classified records about war crimes committed by the Nazis and its allies. Although Gehlen was not considered a Nazi war criminal, the CIA approved the release of a 2,100-page Army file, and released an additional 2,100 Gehlen-related pages. The case has sat dormant from 2001 to 2011. Eleven years later, plaintiffs filed a motion to substitute themselves for Oglesby as plaintiffs, which U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg of Washington, D.C., granted.
Skeptical of the transfer of documents, the replacement plaintiffs then moved to compel the government agencies to provide descriptions of their searches for documents. Kollar-Kotelly denied that motion.
"In the context of complying with the Nazi War Criminal Disclosure Act, the CIA conducted an adequate search for records responsive to Oglesby's FOIA request," she wrote. She also found that the Army's decision to transfer all of its World War II related files from the Army's Intelligence and Security Command's Investigative Records Repository to the National Archives and Records Administration was "not suspect, and thus the Army did not wrongfully withhold any relevant documents."
Lollar-Kotelly was the former presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret court brought to light by former CIA and NSA employee Edward Snowden's document leaks. Among the documents he leaked was a classified 2009 draft report by the National Security Agency's inspector general that recounted some of the activities of the court and the interaction between the it and the NSA.
In June, after her role on the intelligence court came to light, Kollar-Kotelly expressed frustration with suggestions the judiciary was secretly collaborating with the executive branch.
"In my view, that draft report contains major omissions, and some inaccuracies, regarding the actions I took as Presiding Judge of the FISC and my interactions with Executive Branch officials," she said in a written statement provided to The Washington Post.