FOIA Requesters Sue Government Agencies Over Non-Responses To Requests For Election-Related Documents
from the and-this-is-how-the-public-alters-the-FOIA-response-timetable dept
Two of the nation’s foremost FOIA enthusiasts — Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro — are suing a variety of federal agencies for their failure to respond to requests for documents related to the 2016 election.
The first lawsuit, filed a couple of weeks ago, concerns records pertaining to FBI director James Comey’s actions in the last few weeks before Election Day. Most of the documents sought relate to the FBI’s on-again, off-again investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The pair also seeks a variety of communications between Comey and the rest of the FBI, as well as any internal FBI discussions about the number of leaks that accompanied Comey’s last-minute dive back into the email investigation.
Shapiro and Leopold are also seeking unredacted copies of Clinton email investigation documents previously released by the FBI. They also would like to see what the FBI has on hand that references a variety of right-wing news sites, including Breitbart News and alternativeright.com.
The first lawsuit [PDF] alleges the FBI has violated FOIA law by not responding to their expedited request in a timely fashion. At the date of the lawsuit’s filing, the FBI had yet to inform the requesters whether or not it would grant the request expedited status.
The second lawsuit [PDF], filed earlier this week, makes the same allegations. Expedited processing was requested, but the agencies targeted failed to rule on the processing request in a timely fashion. The list of defendants in this lawsuit is a bit longer. Shapiro and Leopold have requested election-related documents from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, CIA, DOJ, and DHS. None of these agencies have issued a ruling on expedited processing.
The documents sought here are also a bit different. The two requesters are asking for documents held by these agencies that pertain to the Russian interference — hacking or otherwise — in the electoral process. There are some interesting keywords listed, including Guccifer, Elite VPN, two IP addresses, and anything related to the alleged compromise of Clinton campaign head John Podesta’s devices/email accounts.
Obviously, both of the requests being sued over are time-sensitive and of considerable public interest. The longer these agencies delay their responses, the less “interesting” the information is to the public. Pulling the trigger on lawsuits two weeks after FOIA requests are filed is the new way of playing ball with federal agencies. Left to their own timetables, the agencies would likely release these documents sometime between “the distant future” and “never.” This prompts the parties listed to at least adhere to the letter of the law and make a determination on expedited processing. And, given the information sought, there’s no way these will be the only FOIA lawsuits related to the requested documents.