Kissinger v. Reporters Committee For Freedom Of The Press

445 U.S. 136 (1980)


FOIA requests were made to get access to various transcriptions of Kissinger's telephone conversations. Throughout Kissinger's service to Presidents Nixon and Ford, his secretaries generally monitored his telephone conversations and recorded their contents by shorthand or tape. These extensive tapes and transcripts were stored in his office at the State Department in personal files. While still Secretary of State, Kissinger removed these archives from his office to the estate of Nelson Rockefeller. No consultation was made with any type of official at the State Department regarding this move nor was any governmental official in any capacity consulted. Kissinger then deeded these papers to the Library of Congress provided that public access to the transcripts would be permitted only with the consent or upon the death of the other parties to the telephone conversations in question. The transcripts and tapes were delivered to the Library of Congress. Important parts of the documents were extracted by the State Department for any significant policy decisions or actions not otherwise reflected in the Department's records. FOIA requests were filed while Kissinger was Secretary of State, but only one request was filed prior to the removal of the telephone notes from the State Department premises. All the requests were denied, as the State Department no longer had the records; even a government archivist was denied access to the notes. P filed a lawsuit for violation of the FOIA. The Court ruled in favor of P for transcripts produced while Kissinger was Secretary of State but denied any requests for production when Kissinger was Special Assistant to the President. Both parties appealed. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.