Judge Rules FBI Blatantly Ignored FOIA Law

REUTERS/Gaston De Cardenas

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Federal Bureau of Investigation officials ignored federal law when they denied requests for public records about how the agency complies with public records requests, a district court judge recently ruled.

The FBI skirted the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — meant to increase transparency and public access to information — by creating an in-house policy that is “fundamentally at odds with the statute,” U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss ruled last week and The Guardian reported.

Moss made the ruling in a FOIA litigation case filed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Ryan Shapiro and his co-plaintiffs. Shapiro asked the FBI for more information about its FOIA processes after the FBI routinely denied his requests, but the agency claimed its FOIA procedures are secret by nature.

“As the plaintiffs correctly observe, dissatisfied FOI 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.

The FBI has already challenged Shapiro in court, claiming in 2013 his graduate dissertation work could “significantly and irreparably damage national security.”

The Department of Justice has yet to indicate whether it will appeal Moss’ ruling.

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