Company Sues Feds for Islamist Study Documents

     (CN) – A media production company claims in a lawsuit that it is entitled to federal government records about a presidential study on political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
     SAE Productions Inc. sued the U.S. Department of State on Monday, claiming the agency has not provided documents that may have influenced Middle Eastern policy.
     SAE’s president, Steven Emerson, is a recognized terrorism expert, according to the complaint.
     According to published reports, Emerson was an investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1976 to 1982, and worked as an executive assistant to Sen. Frank Church until 1986, when he joined the staff of U.S. News and World Report. From there he moved on to CNN, where he reported on terrorism, and then, in 1995, he founded the Investigative Project on Terrorism, which describes itself as “one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data ad intelligence on Islamic Middle Eastern terrorist groups.”
     Among his other activities, Emerson produced the 1994 documentary “Jihad in America,” which explored “the United States fundraising activities of Middle Eastern terrorist groups,” the lawsuit states.
     An entry on his website says he and his organization “have been quoted or profiled in hundreds of newspaper and television stories since 9/11.”
     The self-described production and research news organization filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year, asking for a copy of Presidential Study Directive 11.
     President Obama reportedly issued the directive in 2010 to assess the Muslim Brotherhood and other “political Islamist” movements, according to the complaint.
     “SAE further noted that the assessment resulted in the United States shifting its longstanding policy of supporting ‘stability’ in the Middle East and North Africa to a policy of backing ‘moderate’ Islamic political movements,” the complaint states.
     The State Department told SAE last August that the estimated date of completion for its presidential directive records request is December 2015, according to the lawsuit.
     “To date, no substantive response has been received by SAE from State,” the complaint states. “SAE has a legal right under the FOIA to obtain the information it seeks, and there is no legal basis for the denial by State of said right.”
     The organization says it learned of the presidential directive from a Gulf News Report article dated June 18, 2014. Its FOIA request has two parts: the group seeks a copy of the presidential directive itself as well as copies of documents identified in the news story and records being processed pursuant to a separate, pending FOIA lawsuit.
     SAE seeks an order requiring the State Department to disclose the requested records.
     It is represented by Bradley Moss of Mark Zaid, P.C. in Washington, D.C. That firm’s managing partner, Mark Zaid, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. State Department spokeswoman Katherine Pfaff told Courthouse News that the department has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

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