As part of our ongoing Government Accountability Project, we recently released our Winter 2019 through Spring 2020 FOIA Report providing some updates on our ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation.
In response to troubling reports of Deep State activities, the ACLJ has utilized FOIA to request documents and records from federal government agencies with the intent of shedding light on the ongoing corruption and lawlessness.
We’ve also engaged various state governments with state-equivalents to FOIA to uncover information in our fights for life, Israel, and religious freedom. The ACLJ has issued at least seventy-five FOIA requests to more than twenty different federal or state agencies and their components.
As we have said many times, Deep State corruption is extensive, and federal agencies and departments have repeatedly refused to provide the requested information. As a result, the ACLJ has been forced to file federal lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel compliance in nearly a dozen cases.
The ACLJ appealed and successfully litigated a case at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The ACLJ is currently involved in five federal FOIA lawsuits. The ACLJ has been successful in obtaining documents in every single case – but not until we were willing to take the agencies to federal court. To date, we have obtained nearly 20,000 pages of records, and all but approximately 1,000 pages have been obtained through litigation.
Our latest Quarterly Report provides updates on some of our FOIA requests and lawsuits.
As we indicated in our previous FOIA Quarterly Report, the ACLJ issued a series of FOIA requests to federal agencies seeking records to reveal exactly what happened when, according to bombshell reports, fired FBI Director James Comey planted spies in the White House. Just as we anticipated, the FBI did not comply with the law’s requirements and the ACLJ was forced to file a federal lawsuit.
In addition to the ordinary allegations seeking court enforcement of the FOIA’s legal requirements as to a particular request, the ACLJ also brought a “pattern or practice” claim against the FBI, urging the court to hold the FBI accountable for routinely ignoring the law unless and until we file a lawsuit. The FBI moved to dismiss that claim, and the ACLJ has briefed the issue to the court.
Now under court supervision, the FBI provided the ACLJ an initial production of documents responsive to our request. Processing, negotiations, and court dates have been slowed due to the COVID-19 shutdown and reduction in government employees working in the office. Nonetheless, the ACLJ remains engaged and will continue to press the FBI to comply with the law and produce the documents we have demanded.
The ACLJ filed two lawsuits back in 2017 against the State Department and the National Security Agency to force those agencies to comply with our FOIA requests for records regarding outrageous unmasking efforts in the waning days of the Obama Administration targeting Americans affiliated with now-President Donald Trump. Those lawsuits were consolidated and continue to unfold in court.
Over the past months, the ACLJ has engaged these agencies in competing motions for summary judgment over whether the agencies may rely on their “Glomar responses” – responses refusing to admit or deny that certain records we requested even exist – and whether other redactions and withholdings were proper under the law. The ACLJ filed its Reply in that series of briefings to the court in May 2020. We await the court’s decision.
While our briefing was underway, shocking news broke when the government declassified and released information showing that former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper, President Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and even Vice President Joe Biden were directly involved in unmasking requests involving Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
Emails we obtained in our lawsuits provided valuable insight into what really happened – including an email we obtained wherein, after the November 2016 election, President Obama’s Chief of Staff told Samantha Power that President Obama was going to go away and that she should too. We have obtained documents that prove Power harbored strong political bias and dislike for President Trump at the time she engaged in her unmasking activity – which is again the subject of international news headlines.
Other emails obtained by the ACLJ in our lawsuit against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the NSA revealed that former DNI James Clapper and his colleagues took critical steps to expand access to raw intelligence while engaging in these unmaskings – all in the final days of the Obama Administration. The ACLJ will continue to pursue the truth and expose the Deep State’s efforts to thwart the will of the American People.
The ACLJ has always focused on religious freedom and, in particular, has engaged on behalf of our military servicemembers in various ways to protect their religious freedom through the years. The ACLJ was greatly concerned when we learned that branches of the U.S. military suddenly revoked a private organization’s ability to engrave servicemembers’ dog tags with Bible verses alongside their military insignias – apparently in response to an anti-religion group’s pressure.
Expanding the scope of its FOIA practice area, the ACLJ sent FOIA requests to the Army and to the Marines to get to the bottom of what happened. The military offices are cooperating; and at this time, it appears no lawsuits will be necessary. While processing the requests has been slowed due to the COVID-19 situation, the ACLJ remains engaged with the relevant military offices; and once documents are provided, we will update our members – and the public – with what we find.
In March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state governments across the nation took steps to shut down business operations in apparent attempts to slow the spread of the virus. However, while businesses struggled under the weight of shut-down orders, in some states, one particular type of business enjoyed favor and protection: abortion.
In response, the ACLJ issued two new state-level record requests to Michigan and Illinois in our effort to expose the abortion industry’s influence over the government officials in those states. We intend to find out who was involved and what was said and done to protect the abortion industry’s ability to make money in those states, while other businesses – including those providing elective procedures that are not abortion – and even churches were effectively shut down.
In addition to those identified above and addressed in this FOIA Quarterly Report, we continue to litigate several additional federal lawsuits enforcing the FOIA laws against reticent government agencies. In one case, we await a court decision concerning the State Department’s excessive redactions in documents related to a case we told you about involving the Obama Administration’s Iran Lie, and specifically, when that Administration began secret bilateral talks with Iran. Internal documents we acquired show the State Department knew that the deletion of part of a press conference briefing was intentional.
In others, like our lawsuit about the Clinton Foundation’s cozy relationship with Hillary Clinton’s State Department and our lawsuit about the infamous Uranium One scandal, court-supervised monthly productions continue. The Clinton Foundation FOIA lawsuit had a court filing in May 2020. The Uranium One FOIA lawsuit has a court filing due in June 2020.
As always, the ACLJ will remain ever vigilant to carry out its obligation to hold those in government accountable for their actions and then provide that information to the American people.
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