MANHATTAN (CN) – The New York Times says the FBI blew off FOIA requests for statistics on FBI assessments that the Bureau conducts “proactively” to investigate potential threats to national security. The Times also wants the FBI to release documents from its internal study of all shooting incident reports prepared by the FBI Shooting Incident Review Team.
The FBI withheld the assessment and shooting documents, including the individual Shooting Incident Review Team (SIRT) reports, despite timely requests under the Freedom of Information At, the Times says in its federal complaint.
Charles Savage, a reporter for the Times and a co-plaintiff, says he filed a request in 2009 seeking statistics on the use of assessments.
The FBI denied the request in December, claiming the information was exempt, and the Office of Information Policy denied the Times’ appeal in July.
“Under the rules laid out in the FBI’s ‘Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide,’ the FBI is authorized to open an ‘assessment’ to ‘proactively’ collect information about individuals or organizations who may be involved in national security threats,” according to the complaint.
“Agents may begin such an assessment without a particular factual justification. Assessments permit agents to use potentially intrusive techniques, such as sending confidential informants to infiltrate organizations and following and photographing targets in public.”
Savage says he submitted the request for SIRT documents in November 2009, and the FBI waited 4 months to deny his application, though “an agency must respond to an FOIA request within 20 days.” The Office of Information Policy denied the Times’ appeal in May.
“In the interim, Mr. Savage negotiated with the FBI and agreed to modify the original SIRT request in an attempt to expedite disclosure,” according to the complaint. “Despite various communications between NYT and the FBI, the FBI has not yet produced any documents in response to the SIRT request.”
The Times is represented by house counsel David McCraw.