Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the CIA for all communications of the spy agency’s Prepublication Classification Review Board (PCRB) regarding an October 19, 2020, email request to review and “clear” a letter signed by 51 former intelligence community officials characterizing the Hunter Biden laptop story as having “all the earmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign” (Judicial Watch v. Central Intelligence Agency (No. 1:23-cv-01844)).
In October 2020, in the run-up to the presidential election, the New York Post reported that Hunter Biden’s laptop, which was abandoned at a Delaware computer shop, contained embarrassing and possibly incriminating information about the Biden family. In a May 10, 2023, report the House Judiciary Committee revealed that on October 19, 2020, three days before the second presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democrat candidate Joe Biden, then-Acting CIA Director Michael Morell sent the PCRB the finalized letter for review, calling it a “rush job,” and quickly secured its approval.
Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the CIA failed to respond to a May 11, 2023, FOIA request for:
Records and communications of the Prepublication Classification Review Board, Central Intelligence Agency, including emails, email chains, email attachments, text messages, cables, voice recordings, correspondence, statements, letters, memoranda, reports, presentations, notes, or other form of record, regarding an October 19, 2020, email request to review and “clear” a letter involving the Hunter Biden laptop story potentially having Russian involvement or being a Russian disinformation plot.
In a May 16, 2023, letter to CIA Director William Burns, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Michael R. Turner stated that the committees were conducting oversight of the October 2020 “Public Statement on the Hunter Biden Emails” signed by 51 former intelligence community officials.
Jordan and Turner wrote: “
The CIA has documents responsive to our requests and necessary to our oversight. On October 19, 2020, at 6:34 a.m., Morell submitted the statement to the CIA’s Prepublication Classification Review Board (PCRB), instructing it was “a rush job, as it needs to get out as soon as possible.” The PCRB staff responded at 7:11 a.m. that it had received the statement, and cleared it for publication at 12:44 p.m. on the same day. Morell speculated that the quick turn-around from the PCRB was because “[t]hey are probably afraid I’m coming back” as CIA director. On May 9, 2023, the CIA produced to the Committees two emails: Morell’s email to the PCRB early on October 19, 2023, and the PCRB’s response at 12:44 p.m. However, the Committees have reason to believe additional documents remain in the possession of the CIA.
The Committees have received evidence that the CIA, or at least an employee of the CIA, may have helped to solicit signatories for the statement about Hunter Biden. According to former CIA employee David Cariens, he spoke with the PCRB in October 2020 regarding the review of his memoir and during that call a CIA employee “asked” him if he would sign the statement. As Cariens explained:
When the person in charge of reviewing the book called to say it was approved with no changes, I was told about the draft letter. The person asked me if I would be willing to sign. . . . After hearing the letter’s contents, and the qualifiers in it such as, “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement . . .’ I agreed to sign.
If accurate, this information raises fundamental concerns about the role of the CIA in helping to falsely discredit allegations about the Biden family in the weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
A House Judiciary Committee report details the testimony of former CIA officer Marc Polymeropoulos criticized the CIA’s handling of the letter:
Q. Does what [Former CIA official David Cariens] described there, that interaction with the [Prepublication Classification Review Board], sound like a quid pro quo to you?
A. I can’t comment on this. This is—to me, this is something that the [Prepublication Classification Review Board] in my experience would never engage in something like that. They are just straightforward back and forth in terms of approval. The idea they would have a comment on any other thing that they were working on, that to me is not even close to what I’ve experienced with them.
Q. Does that concern you?
A. If it’s true, it would concern me, for sure. But I just—I have a hard time believing that occurred. If it did, that’s incredibly unprofessional.
Congressional testimony also confirms that the Biden campaign was behind the creation of the infamous Hunter laptop letter promoted by the CIA.
“The Deep State CIA, it seems, engaged in election interference and a political operation against the American people to help Joe Biden and hurt Trump,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And now the CIA is ignoring FOIA law to cover up its role in the scandal, censoring and suppressing the Hunter Biden/Joe Biden laptop story just before the presidential election.”
Judicial Watch has multiple federal lawsuits focused on Biden family corruption:
In July, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ for records from the Office of the Attorney General and Office of the Deputy Attorney General regarding the Internal Revenue Service investigation of Hunter Biden.
In June 2023, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice for a copy of the FBI FD-1023 form that describes “an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.” Judicial Watch also asked for communications about the FD-1023.
In May 2023, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the National Archives for Biden family records and communications regarding travel and finance transactions, as well as communications between the Bidens and several known business associates.
On October 14, 2022, Judicial Watch sued DOJ for all records in the possession of FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten regarding an August 6, 2020, briefing provided to members of the U.S. Senate. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) raised concerns that the briefing was intended to undermine the senators’ investigation of Hunter Biden.
Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department on April 20, 2022, for messages sent through the SMART (State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolkit) system that mention Hunter Biden.
In December 2020, State Department records obtained through a Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit showed that former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch had specifically warned in 2017 about corruption allegations against Burisma Holdings.
In October 2020, Judicial Watch forced the release of State Department records that included a briefing checklist of a February 22, 2019, meeting in Kyiv between then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Sally Painter, co-founder and chief operating officer of Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic lobbying firm which was hired by Burisma Holdings to combat corruption allegations. At the time of the meeting, Hunter Biden was serving on the board of directors for Burisma Holdings.