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U.S. attorney blocks release of info on CIA fictitious licenses

The U.S. attorney in Seattle has stepped in to block the release of information about the once-secret program in which the state of Washington issued fictitious driver’s licenses for CIA agents.

In a letter to the state, Jenny Durkan’s office said 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 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,” he said.

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.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.