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FBI 'Guilty' of unlawfully refused Freedom of Information Act

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1/31/2016 (3 years ago)

FBI said records were unavailable, or did not exist

A judge in a Washington, DC courtroom ruled in favor of a PhD student at MIT and found that the FBI unlawfully, obscured, and refused to requests. The bureau was found guilty of not complying with the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.

U.S. district judge Randolph D. Moss ruled in favor of MIT PhD student Ryan Shapiro. Judge Moss found that the FBI's present policy is 'fundamentally at odds with the statute.' Photo courtesy of Stephanie Crumley.

U.S. district judge Randolph D. Moss ruled in favor of MIT PhD student Ryan Shapiro. Judge Moss found that the FBI's present policy is "fundamentally at odds with the statute." Photo courtesy of Stephanie Crumley.


1/31/2016 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Freedom of Information Act, Ryan Shapiro, FBI,

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - U.S. district judge Randolph D. Moss ruled in favor of MIT PhD student Ryan Shapiro. Judge Moss found that the FBI's present policy is "fundamentally at odds with the statute."

In the suit, the bureau repeatedly denied requests for information. At times, the bureau claimed that the requested documents were unavailable, or did not exist. At other times the bureau neither confirmed or denied the existence of records.

Photo courtesy of Democracy Now.

Photo courtesy of Democracy Now.

Requests by Shapiro for clarifying information were categorically denied. Officials said that information about the FBI's reasons for denying previous FOIA requests were, owing to their confidentiality, were secret.

Shapiro along with his fellow plaintiffs said that the government often acts in bad faith. Their actions were obfuscating critical scrutiny of the bureau. The FBI, Shapiro and his colleagues said, stretched the law by including harmless documents in the broad categories of material it refuses to hand over or discuss.

"As the plaintiffs correctly observe, dissatisfied FOIA requesters are often required to take the government at its word in FOIA litigation, where the government has access to the disputed records and knowledge of how a search and response was conducted," Moss wrote in his 63-page opinion.

There are three categories of records the FBI refuse to release:

1. "Search slips", that document the efforts of analysts to find files requested

2. Case evaluations of the analysts supposedly looking for the records in question.

3. Case processing notes, which provide further detail of individual searches

"The FBI does nearly everything within its power to avoid compliance with the Freedom of Information Act," Shapiro told reporters. "This results in the outrageous state of affairs in which the leading federal law enforcement agency in the country is in routine and often flagrant violation of federal law."


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