Judge Richard W. Roberts of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that a one-page document held by the United States Trade Representative is not properly classified as confidential, and should, therefore be released pursuant a FOIA lawsuit brought by the Center for International Environmental Law.
It is very rare that an agency doesn't prevail in FOIA lawsuits that involve classified information. However, in this case, the court gave the government three opportunities to show why the one page document was properly classified over a five-year period. Each time, the court found that the government's justifications came up short and after the government's third bite of the apple, the court ordered disclosure. It is probably important to note that the document was classified "confidential" which is the lowest classification rating (secret and top-secret being the other two). Further, the document concerned trade negotiations -- while important, they are not the same as weapon systems, terrorism or military activities. Thus, the impact on the U.S. by the release of the document -- even if it could somehow be construed as properly classified -- isn't going to cause much, if any, harm to the U.S. Of course, the government now has the opportunity to appeal the decision, so it is likely that there isn't going to be an immediate disclosure of the document.
Josh Gerstein of Politico has much more on this story.