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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Extreme Secrecy on Bush & Cheney Records

MANHATTAN (CN) - A reporter sued the National Archives and Records Administration for refusing to release information about how former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney tried to shape public opinion during their time in office.

John Cook, a reporter for Gawker Media, made modest requests, which the government rejected. He did not seek government records, but records of who sought records."NARA has indicated that it is currently in possession of more than 10,000 pages of documentation related to special access requests by Designated Representatives and Other Officials for records of former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney," according to his lengthy federal FOIA complaint.

"John Cook, a staff journalist for Gawker Media, made a request under FOIA for copies of these special access requests and related correspondence. Mr. Cook does not seek the Administration's documents, which are protected from disclosure under the PRA [Presidential Records Act]; rather, he seeks only records of which designated representatives and other officials sought and were or were not granted access to what Administration documents.

"Mr. Cook seeks these records in order to gain insight into the way in which the former President and Vice President have chosen to shape the public's perception of their time in office, and to provide this insight to the public through online news stories," the complaint states. (Italics, but not brackets, in original.)

Cook made his first FOIA request on Oct. 21, 2010, and Uncle Sam denied much of it one month later. The denial letter stated that "special access requests" are subject to a FOIA exemption to prevent invasion of privacy.

Cook appealed the denial on Jan. 3, arguing that the government could not withhold an entire document because it could readily redact '"information that could allow readers to identify the requesters in any special access request correspondence while releasing records concerning subject areas, terms of access, and other data of potential interest to the public."

Two months later, the government told him his appeal would be delayed "due to the volume of material ... and the need to coordinate with two components within NARA."

The letter estimated that his request covered about 7,500 pages, according to the complaint.

Cook says the government partly granted appeal in June, revising the estimated responsive documents to 10,000 pages.

Though he says he mailed a check for copying expenses later that month, he says he still has not received a page. He wants to see the documents.

He is represented by Charles Sims with Proskauer Rose.

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