FBI Ignores Court Order, Congressional Oversight; Refuses To Respond To Questions About Clinton Emails

from the no-one-makes-the-FBI-do-ANYTHING.-got-it? dept

Well, it appears some Senate committee heads are getting a little taste of what it feels like to be Just Another Citizen. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is irritated the FBI won't apprise him of the latest developments in the Hillary Clinton email debacle.

Grassley, whose panel oversees the FBI, reacted sharply to a letter the FBI sent Monday turning aside U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan's request for information on whether investigators have been able to retrieve records from a backup thumb drive of Clinton emails or from a server turned over by a tech company Clinton hired.

"The FBI is behaving like it’s above the law," Grassley said in a statement provided to POLITICO on Monday evening. "Simply refusing to cooperate with a court-ordered request is not an appropriate course of action. This entire case, from Secretary Clinton’s ill-advised decision to use a non-government email server, to the FBI’s investigation about classified information, needs some transparency in order to assure the American people that getting to the bottom of this controversy is a priority.”
Grassley is right about most of this. The FBI does tend to believe it's above the law, what with its warrantless surveillance, refusal to cooperate with DOJ oversight and its general indifference to its own internal policies. But what Grassley is complaining about is standard operating procedure by the agency. When not withholding information for bogus reasons, the agency quite frequently cites "ongoing investigations" when refusing to turn over documents.

Here's FBI general counsel James Baker's response to the court's request for a status update in the ongoing FOIA lawsuit:
"At this time, consistent with long-standing Department of Justice and FBI policy, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation, nor are we in a position to provide additional information at this time," Baker wrote to senior State Department attorney Mary McLeod.
The fun thing about investigations (and this goes for local law enforcement just as much as it does for the FBI) is that they can be started at any time, run indefinitely and agencies are under no obligation to inform anyone when investigations are completed, abandoned, etc. That's up to the public (and senators and, apparently, even the State Department) to suss out via FOIA requests, court orders or shouty statements delivered to journalists.

Yes, the FBI is likely doing a bit of stonewalling, but as long as it has an open investigative file and someone drops something into it occasionally over the next indeterminate number of years, it will never need to turn over relevant documents. Certainly Grassley and his committee will be able to bring more pressure to bear than the average FOIA requester, but for the immediate future, the senator will have to deal with the FBI's auto-response brushoff.

Once this gets squared away, the senator may want to take a look at the specifics of our FOIA law, especially where it intersects with law enforcement's many exemptions and other FOIA escape hatches. That's where some work needs to be done. There's an FOIA Improvements Act bill that hasn't gone anywhere since February of this year that could be put back into play. Grassley was the last one who touched it, so he should know exactly where it is.

It's certainly frustrating that the FBI has so many ways of saying, "No." The agency is incredibly adept when it comes to refusals. As it has demonstrated multiple times in the past, it can still say "No" even while saying "Yes." It's a systemic problem that places the public's right to know far below these agencies' desire to keep as much information as possible to themselves.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 11:07am

    The FBI is behaving like it’s above the law," Grassley said in a statement provided to POLITICO on Monday evening. "Simply refusing to cooperate with a court-ordered request is not an appropriate course of action.

    Bravo. Now who is being arrested/severely punished for acting outside of the law? Nobody? Why are we complaining about?

    The Congress has been happy to delegate their Constitutional powers to whoever pays best while simply refusing to actually put the Executive back in its place and the worst he has to say about it is "not an apropriate course of action"? Really?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 1:02pm

      Re:

      No one associated with or part of the federal government can be arrested, prosecuted, or punished in any way thanks the Sanctimony Abrogation Act of 2014.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 1:02pm

    Is this any different from 80 year old Diane Feinstein complimenting the CIA, then complaining about the CIA breaking into the Senate's network, and then complimenting the CIA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 1:13pm

    Silly FBI, don't they know that Republicans are supposed to be able to use them for their partisan witch hunts?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 1:39pm

    The First Commandment of Any Bureaucracy

    Thou shalt become a law unto thyself. Hallowed be thy power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 2:01pm

    The question I have is what does your Senate committee intend to do given the FBI's overt demonstration of what appears to be a growing autonomy without any enforceable oversight. The fact the FBI is also influencing policy (cough..encryption) as it deems necessary is another red flag here that has not gone unnoticed. If the elected officials who chair these committees can't control these types of agencies, what are they doing exactly?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Starcat, 23 Sep 2015 @ 2:14pm

    Not "no"

    It's certainly frustrating that the FBI has so many ways of saying, "No."

    It's certainly frustrating that the FBI has so many ways of saying, "Fuck you."

    FTFY

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 3:05pm

    I would have thought the whole "creating false flag operations disguised as genuine terror attacks" would have tipped them off

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 23 Sep 2015 @ 4:26pm

    So court orders are actually just requests? I didn't know that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 6:44pm

      Re:

      Depends on who's receiving them. To you, or any regular citizen? Absolutely not a 'request'. To a government agency? Yeah, they'll get around to it at some point, maybe...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 4:29pm

    Just cut their budget to zero

    ... then they might understand who is actually in charge.

    Or, less drastically, Congress can mandate that anyone who refuses to answer their question will have their salary suspended until they decide to cooperate...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 6:51pm

    Well... yeah

    "The FBI is behaving like it’s above the law," Grassley said in a statement provided to POLITICO on Monday evening.

    When you know that no-one capable of holding you accountable actually has any desire to do so, no matter what you do, then yeah, for all intents and purposes you are above the law.

    The FBI is being a bit more blunt about it than is usually considered 'acceptable', but that they are making it clear that they don't have to do anything they don't care to is hardly surprising, because let's be honest, what is congress going to do about it? Bluster a bit, issue some sternly worded statements? Oh no, what a terrible thing to have to suffer through for the FBI...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Beech, 24 Sep 2015 @ 1:24am

    Correction is needed:

    "as long as it has an open investigative file and someone drops something into it occasionally over the next indeterminate number of years, it will never need to turn over relevant documents."

    Wrong. Look at the FBI's response: "we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation." That's even worse than saying the investigation is "open", now they refuse to admit if there even is an investigation! So even if the case is "closed" they can STILL decide to glomar its existence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2015 @ 4:28am

    The thoughts

    Puppet court

    Figure heads

    Megnomaniacs

    ....comes to mind

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2015 @ 4:31am

    "The "insert here" is behaving like it’s above the law"



    Yes....whats the punishment......nothing

    News at ten: "Behaviour gets worse"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2015 @ 4:36am

    No punishment NSA have given these snakes balls, balls to show their true colours

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GEMont, 25 Sep 2015 @ 3:23am

    As above, so below, not!

    "...The FBI is behaving like it’s above the law..."

    I figure at this rate, it should take the American people about another twenty six years to realize that under war measure law, The FBI and any other agency the federal government so designates, IS above the law that governs the general riff-raff.

    Actually, its not that the federal government and its agencies are ABOVE the law.

    Its more like the law is simply BENEATH the important and wealthy members of the federal government and its agencies.

    You know.

    The law is down there where all you little unimportant people live, among the rats and cockroaches.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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