The US Attorney in Seattle has stepped in to block the release of information about a once-secret program under which fictitious driver licenses were issued by the state of Washington. In a letter to the state, Jenny Durkan’s office says the documents are “classified national security information.”
Durkan’s letter acknowledges that employees of the U.S. Government have been issued Washington driver’s licenses under pseudonyms. This is so they can conduct undercover activities. But the letter reminds the Washington Department of Licensing that some of its employees signed federal non-disclosure agreements. The letter also says federal law trumps the state’s Public Records Act when it comes to national security.
Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, acknowledges there could be a legitimate exemption here. But he notes the irony is that the feds asked the state for a favor and now want to keep it secret.
“You could almost say it’s a convenience that Washington Department of Licensing is being asked to issue these confidential driver licenses to federal agents so they can do undercover operations,” says Nixon.
The Department of Licensing previously revealed a list of federal agencies that have received confidential driver’s licenses. That list included the Central Intelligence Agency. Now the department says it will neither confirm nor deny a relationship with the CIA.
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Washington’s Public Records Act - Washington Legislature