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Court Tells the FBI to Try Googling

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  1. Freedom of Information
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Author John Davis has been seeking audiotapes from an FBI investigation since 1986. As a result of three lawsuits, he received most but the agency refused to release four tapes saying it would violate the personal privacy of a prominent individual in New Orleans and a confidential informant. If the people are now dead, the exemption doesn’t apply, but the FBI said it could not make that determination. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the FBI really hadn’t made much of an effort: “It says it cannot determine whether the speakers are over 100 years old (and thus presumed dead), because neither mentioned his birth date during the conversations …. It says it cannot …(refer) to a Social Security database, because neither announced his social security number during the conversations. And it declines to search its own files for the speakers’ birth dates or social security numbers, because that is not its practice. The Bureau does not appear to have contemplated other ways of determining whether the speakers are dead, such as Googling them.” (8/24/06)