The Mosaic Theory, National Security, and the Freedom of Information Act

52 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2005

See all articles by David Pozen

David Pozen

Columbia University - Law School


This Note documents the evolution of the "mosaic theory" in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) national security law and highlights its centrality in the post-9/11 landscape of information control. After years of doctrinal stasis and practical anonymity, federal agencies began asserting the theory more aggressively after 9/11, thereby testing the limits of executive secrecy and of judicial deference. Though essentially valid, the mosaic theory has been applied in ways that are unfalsifiable, in tension with the text and purpose of FOIA, and susceptible to abuse and overbreadth. This Note therefore argues, against precedent, for greater judicial scrutiny of mosaic theory claims.

Keywords: Mosaic Theory, National Security, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Government Secrecy, Judicial Review

Suggested Citation

Pozen, David E., The Mosaic Theory, National Security, and the Freedom of Information Act. Yale Law Journal, Vol. 115, pp. 628-679, 2005, Available at SSRN:

David E. Pozen (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

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New York, NY 10025
United States


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