(CN) - Reporters sued the CIA for records on its fight with Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairwoman Diane Feinstein over the CIA's alleged coverup of an internal review of its rendition program.
Al Jazeera America reporter Jason Leopold's multiple demands for secret government documents led one bureaucrat to label him a "FOIA terrorist," a phrase he has taken up as a badge of honor.
His co-plaintiff Ryan Shapiro, a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also uses the Freedom of Information Act in studying the U.S. national security apparatus and its policing of dissent.
Their latest FOIA lawsuit seeks to look behind the scenes at a very public and still-simmering dispute between the CIA and the Senate's top intelligence official that erupted over the so-called Panetta Internal Review.
Named after former CIA director Leon Panetta, the classified review is believed to cast a harsh light on the Bush administration's extraordinary rendition program, which involved transferring detainees without legal review to secret locations known as "black sites" where detainees reported having been tortured.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., revealed the existence of the Panetta Review in a hearing in December 2013, the New York Times reported.
On March 11 this year, Feinstein, D-Calif., announced on the Senate floor that the committee encountered the document at issue during its investigation and did not know whether it had been "provided intentionally by the CIA, unintentionally by the CIA or intentionally by a whistle-blower."
In a 40-minute speech, she accused the CIA of trying to remove the document and spy on the computers of the committee members investigating the rendition program.
The committee moved the Panetta review from the agency's facility in Northern Virginia to a safe of the Hart Building in Washington to frustrate the attempted interference with the probe, Feinstein said.
Responding to the CIA's allegation that such a removal was illegal, Feinstein justified the committee's action by noting that the agency previously destroyed 92 tapes depicting interrogations of suspected al-Qaida leaders.
Feinstein claimed that CIA had "violated its written agreement" with the committee and "possibly violated criminal laws" by searching the computers of the committee members, the new, 6-page FOIA lawsuit states.
Roughly one month after Feinstein's speech, Leopold and Shapiro sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA seeking records about its squabble with the Senate committee.
Leopold and Shapiro seek: "A copy of all written agreements and correspondence between the SSCI (including Senators on the committee, their staff, and committee staff) and the CIA (or its agents, including contractors) which set forth the terms under which SSCI staffers would be permitted to access CIA documents at the secure CIA facility in Virginia.
"All records documenting any CIA investigation into the search of SSCI's computers at the secure facility in Virginia, including any records generated by the CIA's Inspector General in the course of any investigation; records referring the incident(s) to the Department of Justice for investigation; and correspondence between the SSCI (including Senators on the committee, their staff, and committee staff) and the CIA (or its agents, including contractors) which discuss the event.
"All records documenting any CIA investigation into the removal of the Panetta Review, including any records generated by the CIA's Inspector General in the course of any investigation; records referring the incident(s) to the Department of Justice for investigation; and correspondence between the SSCI (including Senators on the committee, their staff, and committee staff) and the CIA (or its agents, including contractors) which discuss the event.
"A copy of the contract, the request for proposal, proposal, bid solicitation, and bid for any CIA contractor responsible for reviewing records relating to the CIA's former Detention and Interrogation Program before access was provided to SSCI staff.
"A copy of any and all talking points (in draft and final form), and any and all guidance issued to the CIA's Office of Public Affairs, about the ongoing dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) over the SSCI's review of the CIA's former Detention and Interrogation Program."
The CIA did not respond to the request within the 20-business-day window mandated by the statute, Leopold and Shapiro say.
They want to see the record.
They are represented by Jeffrey Light, of Washington, D.C.