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Group sues to speed up the release of Clinton's first lady files

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  1. Freedom of Information
A conservative public interest group is in federal court attempting to force the National Archives to release documents relating to…

A conservative public interest group is in federal court attempting to force the National Archives to release documents relating to a special health care task force overseen by Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was first lady significantly faster than the agency says is possible.

A National Archives spokeswoman has said Judicial Watch’s request will encompass an estimated 3 million pages, and that the abnormally large request should have to wait in line behind other lengthy requests. The Archives has argued in federal court that the request’s size and the current length of its overall FOIA request line should allow the agency to cite FOIA’s "exceptional circumstances" in delaying its attention to Judicial Watch’s matter.

Judicial Watch, meanwhile, has accused the Archives of simply dragging its feet on the request.  The conservative public interest group is likely to have argued that a "compelling need" — the standard it must fulfull under FOIA — exists to justify that its request skip ahead in the line of current National Archives FOIA requests.

In determining what constitutes a "compelling need" to justify an expedited request, FOIA states that the requester must show that failure to obtain the documents would present "an imminent threat to the life of the requester or physical safety of an individual," or otherwise, if the request is made by a "person primarily engaged in disseminating information," there is "urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal government activity."

Judicial Watch would likely have the best chance of gaining expedited processing if it conformed its argument into the second prong, perhaps emphasizing the information’s potential significance to the upcoming presidential election.

In noting that the documents requested must not only be reviewed by agency archivists, but also by former Clinton adminstration officials and the current administration, the Archives has asked the judge to either dismiss Judicial Watch’s case or else grant the agency a full year to address the request — a delay which would surpass November’s presidential election.