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Now for some good news on the open government/open records front, although it might make for some bad news down the line, at least for those who like to know what their government is doing.
A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California last week ordered government agencies to speed up their search for records requested under the Freedom of Information Act by a reporter investigating – get this – the government’s investigation into leaks of classified information.
You can find a report about the Nov. 29 court order from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press here.
It’s always a good thing when the government – here, the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and Department of Defense – is required to take FOIA requests by the public seriously.
The odd twist here is that the person requesting the records, Josh Gerstein, a reporter for the conservative (or, maybe more accurately, neoconservative) New York Sun, wants the records so he can report on what the government is doing to investigate leaks of classified information that resulted in public awareness of such things as the government’s warrantless wiretapping program and bank information monitoring practices.
It’s not clear whether Gerstein expects the records to show the government isn’t doing enough to stop leaks, or whether he thinks the government is spending too much time pursuing leakers. Or even whether he has no expectations at all.
But, if the former, it would be a rather ironic use of FOIA – using access to public records to try to limit the public’s access to government information.
There are actually two orders directing the FBI, etc. to speed up the processing of reporter Josh Gerstein’s FOIA requests. You can read them http://www.medialaw.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Publications1/MLRC_MediaLawDaily/Attachments/NYSunOrderonSummJ.pdf“target=”_blank”>here.
An earlier version of this post did not contain the final paragprah. The paragraph was added to include a link to information.