February 5, 1997.
Dear Mr. Nguyen:
This in response to your letter dated 28 January 1997 and received in our office on 31 January 1997. Your letter refers to our 15 January 1997 response to your above referenced appeal and proposes that this Agency provide you with information pertaining to the subject of your request and subsequent appeal by using procedures that transcended the limits of the Freedom of Information Act.
We appreciate your desire for information as it pertains to your request for "a copy of [this] Agency's declassified file on [your brother] General Nguyen Van Hieu of the South Vietnamese Army" and we regret that we could neither confirm nor deny the existence of documents, if any. The CIA is charged with the responsibility of clandestine (i.e., secret) collection of foreign intelligence and conduct of foreign intelligence operations. The CIA has and continues today to operate in many foreign countries to focus our efforts on many foreign nationals as either intelligence or intelligence targets. To confirm which foreign nationals are the subject of Agency files (or are not), would directly or indirectly reveal individuals who are intelligence sources or of intelligence interest in degradation of the Director's statutory authority under the National Security Act of 1947 as well as the mandate of Executive Order 12958. All courts to have considered this matter have held that the CIA is authorized and indeed required to respond in this manner to all requests for information on foreign nationals. We cannot, as a matter of law or public policy, choose which intelligence sources or targets are to be protected and which are not to be protected. This applies with equal force to the well-known as well as the obscure and living as well as deceased foreign national. To confirm any such secret interest would, in our professional judgment, cause grave difficulties vis a vis the information collected, individuals or entities associated with the source or target, operations which may continue today, and our relationship with target or host countries. Each of these reasons independently form the basis for the national security classification and statutory protection of such matters.
Again, the proposal you set forth in your 28 January letter falls outside the parameters of the Freedom of Information Act. Our 15 January 1997 response to your appeal is final. We regret that there is nothing further we can do to assist you other than remind you of your right to seek judicial review of this determination in a United States district court.
Lee S. Strickland, Information and Privacy Coordinator