Federal appeals court keeps alive suit seeking records from prosecutors
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Lyndon LaRouche follower who contends that the KGB and the U.S. government conducted a “disinformation campaign” linking the perennial presidential candidate to a 1986 assassination has won a partial victory in a case seeking government records before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington (D.C. Cir.).
In late May the appeals court remanded the case to the district court to determine whether the Boston U.S. Attorney’s Office had conducted an adequate search for documents Michele Steinberg requested under the Freedom of Information Act. However, it said that the FBI, which provided copious detail of files searched in its affidavits to the court, had worked hard enough to locate documents responsive to similar requests filed at that agency.
Steinberg filed requests in 1989 with the FBI and with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston seeking any records of evidentiary material turned over to Swedish authorities after the assassination of Prime Minster Olaf Palme.
The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys in Washington, responding on behalf of the Boston office, informed Steinberg that any records that might have been responsive to her request had been turned over to Virginia to assist in a state prosecution of LaRouche, and that the agency had not kept copies.
In September 1992 the federal district court in Washington, D.C., found that “the record discloses an informed, detailed search of likely sources” and ruled for the government. Steinberg appealed.
In his opinion for the appellate court, Judge Abner Mikva noted that in describing its search, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys said it had contacted the Boston office and been told that no records existed within the agency. He remanded that part of the case, telling the district court to find explicitly whether the Attorneys Office had conducted an adequate search.
Mikva upheld the FBI’s use of the national security exemption (Exemption 1) and the law enforcement privacy exemption (Exemption 7c) to withhold records. He agreed to the government’s request that the district court also revisit issues of law enforcement records on confidential sources in Steinberg’s case because the U.S. Supreme Court recently limited use of that exemption (Exemption 7d).
(Steinberg v. Department of Justice; Counsel: James Lesar, Washington)