FBI failed to follow its own rules when it impersonated The Associated Press in a 2007 investigation

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Freedom of Information | Commentary | April 28, 2016
April 28, 2016

The FBI failed to follow its own rules when agents impersonated an Associated Press reporter in order to locate a criminal suspect in 2007, according to documents newly released in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and The Associated Press.

The documents further show that after the impersonation became public, an FBI analysis determined that the non-compliance was reasonable, raising questions about the efficacy of the guidelines altogether.

The Reporters Committee and AP sued the FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice last August for records related to the FBI’s practice of impersonating the news media.

FOIA trial offers rare look into how FBI searches records, responds to requests

Jacob Donnelly | Freedom of Information | News | June 18, 2015
June 18, 2015

Evidence from an ongoing Freedom of Information Act trial has shed light on how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handles FOIA requests from the public.

The case, Trentadue v. FBI, was filed by Jesse Trentadue in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah after the FBI failed to turn over videotapes of the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995.

In the Reporters Committee's experience, it is rare for FOIA cases to go to trial - cases are usually settled or disposed of though pre-trial motions.

FBI failed to disclose violations of surveillance statute, watchdog report shows

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Commentary | January 14, 2015
January 14, 2015

Yesterday, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (OIG) released its 2012 report on Activities Under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 for the first time. When the report was originally issued, it was classified and not disclosed to the public. The report, in redacted form, was released in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by The New York Times, and reveals that the FBI failed to report that it illegally collected information on individuals inside the United States.

Tech companies' announcement of new encryption policies prompts pushback from law enforcement

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | Commentary | October 21, 2014
October 21, 2014

Last month, Google and Apple both announced that their next mobile operating systems would encrypt user data by default. Both Google and Apple also noted that the new forms of encryption would make it impossible for the companies to "unlock" encrypted phones, including in order to comply with lawful search warrants. These announcements have prompted officials to express concern about the risk that encryption will interfere with government's ability to investigate crime.

FBI to release records on secret informant Ernest Withers

Lilly Chapa | Freedom of Information | News | February 28, 2013
February 28, 2013

As part of a settlement agreement between the FBI and a Tennessee newspaper, the bureau must release documents and photos that are expected to confirm that famed civil rights photographer Ernest Withers was a confidential informant during the civil rights era. Withers died in 2007.

Journalist awarded more than $400,000 in FOIA case against FBI

Lilly Chapa | Freedom of Information | News | October 22, 2012
October 22, 2012

A federal court awarded a California-based journalist and author nearly half a million dollars in fees, concluding two FOIA litigation battles with the FBI that lasted for more than 25 years.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco ruled Thursday that the FBI must pay Seth Rosenfeld $479,459 in attorneys’ fees because the journalist “substantially prevailed” in the two lawsuits he filed against the FBI.

FBI FOIA response was official confirmation of informant's status

Rachel Bunn | Freedom of Information | Feature | February 1, 2012
February 1, 2012

The FBI cannot cite an exclusion provision related to confidential informants under the federal Freedom of Information Act regarding a request for records about civil rights era photographer Ernest Withers after the bureau was found to have officially confirmed Withers was an informant through a records release, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. ruled Tuesday.

FBI must say if it has documents sought by inmate

Emily Peterson | Freedom of Information | Feature | June 30, 2011
June 30, 2011

A U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the federal Freedom of Information Act requires the FBI to disclose to an attorney representing a Texas death row inmate whether it has records that could corroborate his client’s claims of innocence.

Justice Dept. subpoenas reporter over CIA sources

Cristina Abello | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | April 29, 2010
April 29, 2010

The Obama Justice Department has decided to continue the Bush administration's quest to compel a New York Times reporter to testify about confidential sources in a book he published about the CIA, The New York Times reported.

FBI allows Edward Kennedy's family to weigh in on file release

Miranda Fleschert | Freedom of Information | Quicklink | April 15, 2010
April 15, 2010

The FBI will consult with Edward M. Kennedy's family before releasing its file on the deceased lawmaker to the public — a rarely invoked FBI accommodation, The Boston Globe reported.

Because deceased persons cannot claim privacy rights, media organizations began requesting to gain access to Kennedy’s 3000-page FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act after the Massachusetts senator passed away in August.