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

Well, we can already see what government agency will be the next recipient of a Jason Leopold FOIA lawsuit.

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."

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: fbi, foia, going dark, james comey, jason leopold, talking points

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2016 @ 7:18pm

    Re: Re:

    "Go whatever yourself, now there's an insult."

    Unless you're gay. Then it might sound like something you'd want to try.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.