FBI Says It Has 487 Pages Of James Comey Talking Points, Refuses To Release Any Of Them
from the 'but-here's-a-CD-full-of-nothing-for-you' dept
Leopold had requested FBI Director James Comey's talking points for a variety of subjects, including "going dark," the terrorist attacks in Paris, the "Ferguson Effect," and encryption. The FBI responded with two things, both of which add up to nothing.
The letter Leopold received noted that the FBI had found 487 pages responsive to his request. Of those, the agency will be releasing a grand total of zero pages. All 487 have been withheld under FOIA exemptions b(5) through b(7)(E).
Despite not releasing a single page, the FBI still utilized some taxpayer pocket change to mail Leopold a CD containing nothing more than its rejection. Leopold notes he'll be using it as a coaster.
The exemptions cited are bogus. "Talking points" aren't deliberative documents, interagency memos, or documents containing sensitive personal information [b(5), b(6)]. Neither are they documents that might expose law enforcement sources or investigative techniques [b7(D) and 7(E)].
They are exactly what the name says they are: points to be used when discussing these issues in Congressional hearings or during press conferences. They are indicative of the public stances the FBI takes on certain issues. There's nothing secret about them, or at least there shouldn't be.
But the FBI is treating Comey's talking points like they're confidential documents that could result in the exposure of its sources and techniques. If Comey's talking points do actually include this information, that's pretty irresponsible. These are used to make public statements and they certainly shouldn't include sensitive information not meant for the public domain.
And there's 487 pages of them, which means Comey has had plenty to talk about. The eventual release of these documents post-lawsuit should be entertaining and informative. Considering Comey has taken public stances privately opposed by other FBI officials and has made of habit of bypassing agency norms when delivering statements, it would be interesting to see if his past statements have periodically veered away from the agency's prepared talking points.
This response is a typical one for the FBI, which frequently returns an upraised middle finger to the requester in lieu of the documents requested. It's just how it opens FOIA negotiations. From there, requesters are expected to begin the appeals process or, in the case of FOIA enthusiast Jason Leopold, file yet another FOIA lawsuit that's 90% boilerplate and 10% "this is SPECIFICALLY how [US Government Agency X] has dicked me around this time."