DOD to Turn Over Records in Defamation Case

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge Tuesday ordered the Department of Defense to turn over several documents to a defense contractor accused of defaming a competitor by claiming it had questionable ties to Iran.
     Government contracting company Agility Public Warehousing filed suit against the DOD in June 2014 in an effort to force the agency to turn over more than 100 documents Agility hoped would help in its defense against claims it sent emails to the Defense Logistics Agency falsely accusing its competitor Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Company of dealing with Iran.
     U.S. District Judge John D. Bates gave Agility a “pyrrhic” victory by specifically ordering the DOD to release 14 unredacted versions of documents related to Agility’s trial, as well eight others the agency can hand over with a protective order.
     In addition, Bates ordered the DOD to release an unspecified number of documents related to the testimony of Uldric Fiore, a former General Counsel for the Department of Defense Inspector General. These are internal documents regarding contractor changes and the Government Accountability Office’s adjudication opinion, all of which the agency claimed attorney-client privilege covered.
     Bates allowed the government to keep some of the documents related to the agency’s deliberative processes redacted, despite Agility’s claim that the documents contain “factual, investigative matter.”
     “Beyond these drafts, the disputed-document pile contains numerous email chains, which (if left unredacted) would reveal discussions between DLA staff regarding how best to respond to requests from the public,” Bates wrote in his opinion.
     The DOD also claimed attorney-client privilege on some of the documents, but Bates determined the agency waived this privilege once it accidentally turned over unredacted versions of several of the files to Agility.
     Other documents fell under the protection of the Work-Product doctrine, which holds documents “that are prepared in anticipation of litigation” are subject to protection, Bates concluded.
     The documents Bates partially ordered turned over to Agility fell under the Trade Secrets Act, which would allow DLA to seek further protection of the documents, the opinion states.
     Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Company brought suit in 2012 against Agility in Pennsylvania after emails apparently from impartial whistleblowers alleging Kuwait & Gulf illegally did business with Iran turned out to have their origins with Agility.
     The 100 disputed documents come in addition to roughly 1,000 more DLA released to Agility to date, according to the opinion.
     Representatives for Agility and the Department of Defense did not respond to a request for comment.

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