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Judge Shuts Down Gizmodo FOIA Suit Over Trump Wiretaps

A federal judge in New York has shut down a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Gizmodo Media Group against the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged wiretaps of President Donald Trump, saying the DOJ was within its legal rights when it couldn’t confirm nor deny any such material.

(CN) – A federal judge in New York has shut down a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Gizmodo Media Group against the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged wiretaps of President Donald Trump, saying the DOJ was within its legal rights when it couldn’t confirm nor deny any such material.

In March 2017, right-wing website Breitbart News published a story that claimed members of Trump’s presidential campaign were wiretapped by the Obama administration. A day after the article ran, President Trump tweeted a four-part series as a reaction to the story.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” Trump tweeted. “Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

Shortly following the subsequent news reports surrounding the alleged wiretapping, Gizmodo submitted a FOIA request to the DOJ’s National Security Division for information related to any such wiretaps of the Trump campaign. Gizmodo made the argument that since President Trump tweeted about the subject, it was therefore a public disclosure and subject to FOIA requests.

The NSD answered the request with a Glomar response, stating that the agency will neither confirm nor deny the existence of the information requested, a FOIA exemption allowed by law when disclosure of such information or disclosure of its existence could harm national security. After appealing to the DOJ, Gizmodo filed a lawsuit in order to compel the feds to handing over any information.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, a Bill Clinton appointee in the Southern District of New York, said that while later information surrounding the surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was released to the public, that did not allow Gizmodo to request possible surveillance information of others.

“With the disclosure that surveillance did occur of Page, who worked with the Trump Campaign, and with the disclosure that candidate Trump was not the target of such surveillance, there is no bar to the Government invoking a Glomar response with respect to a FOIA request seeking records of surveillance of all other individuals associated with the Trump Campaign in 2016,” Cote wrote in an 18-page ruling.

Cote added that although Trump tweeted about the subject, he was not detailed in any of his tweets about the subject.

“President Trump’s tweets were too vague to foreclose a Glomar response to this remaining category of requests,” Cote said. “President Trump discussed surveillance of his Campaign in broad strokes. He did not refer to any targets of this surveillance apart from himself, or to any number of targets.”

Gizmodo did not immediately respond to an email for comment made after business hours Wednesday evening.

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