WASHINGTON (CN) – A Pulitzer Prize-winning author may yet access FBI records on two underbosses of the Gambino crime family after a federal judge ordered the agency to take another look at records it withheld.
“In preparing a schedule, counsel should be keenly aware of both the age of the requests here as well as the age of this litigation,” U.S. Chief Judge Royce Lamberth wrote, hinting at the fact that some of George Lardner’s requests date back to 1993. “The time has come to bring this case to a conclusion.”
Lardner submitted Freedom of Information Act requests in 1993 and 2003 to access on mob underbosses Aniello Dellacroce and Sam Giancana, as well as the FBI’s Top Hoodlum Program. He also requested a search of all the electronic surveillance indexes, including confidential source and informant files.
Though the agency released tens of thousands of documents to Lardner, he filed suit against the FBI, the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and five other John Doe federal agencies, claiming that they had not conducted an adequate search.
In explanation of its withholdings, the FBI filed a Vaughn index in 2010. The document, which identifies each document withheld, states the statutory exemption claimed, and explains how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption, takes its name from the 1973 case Vaughn v. Rosen.
But Lamberth rejected the governments index last week
“The defendants’ Vaughn index is, in a word, inadequate,” he wrote, adding that the FBI’s search itself was thorough.
“Although missing files are understandably frustrating to Lardner, the adequacy of a FOIA search is generally determined not by the fruits of the search, but by the appropriateness of the methods used to carry out the search,” Lamberth wrote.
A Washington Post investigative reporter for over 40 years, George Lardner won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1993 related to articles he wrote on the murder of his daughter, Kristin.
Lamberth ordered the FBI to reprocess the responsive documents and complete its Vaughn index before “either the court or plaintiff can properly evaluate the defendants’ withholdings and its processing of the sample records.”
The parties must submit a status report within 20 days suggesting a schedule for the final Vaughn index submission.