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FOIA suit seeks documents on journalist's death

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  1. Freedom of Information
Students at Georgetown University are suing the CIA, FBI and other government agencies for information in the death of Wall Street Journal…

Students at Georgetown University are suing the CIA, FBI and other government agencies for information in the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

As The Washington Post reported Wednesday, the project began in Barbara Feinman Todd and Asra Nomani’s 2007 investigative journalism class at Georgetown. The students were supposed to find out who killed Pearl.

The class has ended, but the efforts have not. The Pearl Project, now housed at the non-profit Center for Public Integrity, has been trying to figure out what happened to Pearl since 2002. Todd is a co-director.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday under the Freedom of Information Act, stems from 27 requests for documents made under the guise of the project that have gone unfulfilled or resulted only in heavily redacted information.

One of the documents at issue is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s confession to the murder. According to the complaint, the FBI responded to the FOIA request for the document by saying the requesters needed a privacy waiver from him. The FBI also said the requesters needed a privacy waiver from Richard Reid, who was convicted of trying to blow up an airplane in 2002.

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Richard Reid are two foreign nationals that have been designated as Al Qaeda terrorists with ties to 9/11,” Brad Moss, an attorney handling the suit, said in a press release. “The notion that these individuals’ privacy interests somehow outweigh the public’s interest simply fails to pass the ‘smell test.’”

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman told The Post in an e-mail, “The Department strives to strike the right balance between transparency in our operations while at the same time protecting sensitive information critical to the national security. Since the Pearl Project has an active appeal pending with the FOIA office, it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics of the request.”