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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Redacted Chapter of FBI Field Guide Stays Sealed

(CN) - After privately reviewing a closely guarded chapter of the FBI's Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, a federal judge has confirmed that it cannot be released to the Muslim civil liberties group that sought access.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan forbid access to the bulk of the guide in November, agreeing that the chapters redacted by the FBI are exempt under the Freedom of Information Act because they detail specific internal investigatory techniques and procedures that could assist criminals, terrorists and foreign intelligence operatives.

The FBI had invited Muslim Advocates and other groups to review the entire 270-page guide without redactions at the agency's headquarters in a 2008 effort to get feedback from the civil rights community. Though the groups had the opportunity to take notes on the guide, the FBI required them to return the materials at the end of the two meetings.

Claiming that they were denied a meaningful review, Muslim Advocates and the other groups demanded copies of the guide.

The FBI ultimately released portions of the DIOG to the public, but it withheld "nearly entire sections on a number of topics - including sections that address the infiltration of Muslim community and religious organizations."

Muslim Advocates argued that the redactions were unjustifiable and that the FBI had already waived privilege by having already showed the guide in full.

Judge Sullivan granted the government's motion for summary judgment in November but said the FBI needed to submit a more specific affidavit to support its extensive redactions of Chapter 16.

After reviewing the affidavit in camera, Sullivan said Wednesday that the chapter indeed qualified for exemption.

"The declaration sufficiently demonstrates how the release of the requested information might create a risk of circumvention of the law," Sullivan wrote.

"The court concludes that it is both plausible and logical that the disclosure of detailed information regarding the FBI's procedures for investigation of and undisclosed participation in target organizations could risk circumvention of the law and impede the FBI's ability to carry out its mission," he added.

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