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CREW: FBI: Murtha FOIA Appeal: 04/01/11

CREW: FBI: Murtha FOIA Appeal: 04/01/11

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Published by CREW
On April 1, 2011 CREW filed an administrative appeal from the refusal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to provide records related to its investigation of the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), including documents that would shed light on the Department of Justice’s decision whether or not to criminally prosecute him.

The Department of Justice and the FBI have conducted several investigations related to lobbying of Rep. Murtha and earmarks he obtained for various organizations and clients of lobbying firms. CREW filed Freedom of Information Act requests for records related to the investigations in February. The FBI denied the request in March, claiming that the responsive records it has cannot be released because disclosure would interfere with ongoing law enforcement proceedings. Rep. Murtha, however, died on February 8, 2010, and even if other aspects of the investigations are active, the FBI should be able to disclose records or parts of records related only to the investigation of Rep. Murtha.
On April 1, 2011 CREW filed an administrative appeal from the refusal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to provide records related to its investigation of the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), including documents that would shed light on the Department of Justice’s decision whether or not to criminally prosecute him.

The Department of Justice and the FBI have conducted several investigations related to lobbying of Rep. Murtha and earmarks he obtained for various organizations and clients of lobbying firms. CREW filed Freedom of Information Act requests for records related to the investigations in February. The FBI denied the request in March, claiming that the responsive records it has cannot be released because disclosure would interfere with ongoing law enforcement proceedings. Rep. Murtha, however, died on February 8, 2010, and even if other aspects of the investigations are active, the FBI should be able to disclose records or parts of records related only to the investigation of Rep. Murtha.

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Published by: CREW on Apr 01, 2011
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04/06/2012

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CREW
I
MelanieAnnPustayDirectorOffice
of
InformationPolicyU.S.Department
of
Justice1425NewYorkAvenue,N.W.Suite
11050
Washington,D.C.20530-0001
citizensforresponsibilityandethics
in
washington
April1,2011Re:FreedomofInformationActAppealinRequestNo.1161324-000DearMs.Pustay: CitizensforResponsibilityandEthicsinWashington("CREW")herebyappealstherefusal
of
theFederalBureauofInvestigation("FBI")toprocessandreleasetoCREWanyrecordsresponsivetoourFreedom
of
InformationAct("FOIA")request
of
February7,2011.ByletterdatedandsentbyfacsimileonFebruary7,2011,CREWrequestedwitnessstatements,investigationreports,prosecutionmemoranda,andFBI302reportsrelatedtoseveral investigationsinwhichthelateRep.JohnMurtha(D-PA)isnamedorotherwiseidentified.Theinvestigationsatissueinvolvedthefollowingindividualsandentities:PaulMagliocchettiAssociates("PMA"),PaulMagliocchetti,ConcurrentTechnologiesCorporation,Commonwealth ResearchInstitute,KucheraCorporation,KucheraDefenseSystems,KucheraIndustries,LBK Ranch,BillKuchera,RonaldKuchera,CoherentSystemsInternational,RichardIanieri,KSA Consulting,Robert"Kit"Murtha,andMountaintopTechnologies.CREWexplicitlyexcluded fromitsrequestrecordscoveredbygrandjurysecrecypursuanttoRule6(e)
of
theFederalRules
of
CriminalProcedure.Acopy
of
therequestisattachedasExhibit
A.
CREWalsosoughtapublicinterestfeewaiver,explainingthattherequestedrecordsarelikelytocontributetogreaterpublicawareness
of
allegedmalfeasanceandpossiblecriminalbehaviorbyRep.Murtha,aswellasanydecisionby
DOl
whethertobringchargesagainsthim.AsCREWexplained,
DOl
andtheFBIhaveconductedseveralinvestigationsrelatedtolobbying
of
Rep.Murthaandearmarksheobtainedforvariousorganizationsandclients
of
lobbyingfirms.CREWfurtherexplainedthatRep.MurthadiedonFebruary8,2010,andthattheFBIalreadyhasreleasedcertainrecordsrelatedtohim.AsCREWalsoexplained,while
DOl
didnotprosecuteRep.Murtha,hisactivitiesstill mayhavebeenillegalorviolations
of
therules
of
theHouse,andtherequestedrecordswouldshedlightonthem.CREWfurtherexplainedthesedocumentswouldshedlightontheconduct
of
DOl
andtheFBIinconductingtheinvestigations,andanydecisionwhethertobringchargesagainsthim.
1400
Eye
Street,
NW.,
Su
ite450,
Wash
ington,
D.C.
20005
I
202.408.5565
pho
ne
I
202.588.5020
fax
I
www.c
it
izensfore
thics.org
 
Office
of
InformationPolicyApril1,2011Page2
CREW
specificallynoteditswillingnesstodiscusswiththeFBIthescope
of
itsrequestandwhetheritcanbenarrowedormodifiedtobetterenabletheFBItoprocessit.Inresponse,theFBIsent
CREW
aformletterdatedMarch1,2011(attachedasExhibitB)assertingthattherecordsrequestsarelocatedininvestigativefilesthatareexemptfromdisclosurepursuanttoExemption7(A)
of
theFOIA.Specifically,theFBIasserted"thereisapendingorprospective
law
enforcementproceedingrelevanttotheseresponsiverecords;andthatrelease
of
theinformationcontainedintheseresponsiverecordscouldreasonablybeexpectedtointerferewiththeenforcementproceedings."TheFBIimproperlywithheldtherequestedrecords.Exemption7(A)permitsthewithholding
of
"recordsorinformationcompiledforlawenforcementpurposes
...
totheextentthatproduction
of
such
law
enforcementrecordsorinformation
...
couldreasonablybeexpectedtointerferewithenforcementproceedings."5
U.S.c.
§552(b)(7)(A).Thepurpose
of
Exemption7(A)is
'''to
prevent
harm
tothegovernment'scaseincourt.'"
NLRB
v.
RobbinsTire
&
RubberCo.,
437U.S.
214,227
(1978)(internalcitationomitted);
seealsoNorth
v.
Walsh,
881F.2d1088,1097(D.C.Cir.1989)(Exemption7(A)is"designedtoblockthedisclosure
of
informationthatwillgenuinely
harm
thegovernment'scaseinanenforcementproceedingorimpedeaninvestigation").
Exemption
7(A)does
"not
endlesslyprotectmaterialsimplybecauseitwasinaninvestigatoryfile."
RobbinsTire
&
RubberCo.,
437U.S.at230.
Law
enforcementrecordsmaybewithheldonlywhererelease
"is
likelytocausesomedistinctharm."
Kay
v.
FCC,
976F.Supp.23,38(D.D.C.1997);
seealsoCitizens
for
Responsibility
and
EthicsinWashington
v.
Us.
Dep
't
of
Justice,
658F.Supp.2d
217,226
(D.D.C.2009)Disclosingtherequestedrecordswillnotinterfere
with
anyenforcementproceedingrelatedtoRep.Murtha.Rep.MurthadiedinFebruary2010andthereforetherecanbenoenforcementproceedingagainsthim.TotheextenttheFBIiscontendingdisclosure
of
therequestedrecordscouldinterferewithotherenforcementproceedings,disclosure
of
recordsfromanactiveinvestigationisnotforeclosedsimplybecausetheinvestigationisopen.
Banks
v.
Dep
't
of
Justice,
700F.Supp.2d
9,18
(D.D.C.2010)("Themerefactthattheunderlyinginvestigationremainsopenisnotasufficientbasisforwithholdingtheentirecasefile;suchadecisionisjustifiedonlyonashowingthattherelease
of
eachcategory
of
documentscouldreasonablybeexpectedtointerferewithenforcementproceedings.").Even
if
disclosure
of
some
of
therequestedrecordscould,
if
released,interfere
with
ongoingenforcementproceedings,theFBIcannotwithhold
all
of
therecords.While
CREW
doesnot
know
whatrecordstheFBIpossessesthatrelatetotheinvestigationsatissue,itisveryunlikelyall
of
themarerelatedtoongoingproceedingsandtheirdisclosurereasonablycouldbeexpectedtointerferewiththoseproceedings.
It
is
much
morelikelythatatleast
some
of
therequestedrecordsrelatesolelytoRep.Murtha,andtheirrelease
 
Office
of
InformationPolicyApril1,2011Page3wouldnotcauseharmtoanyopenproceedings.Similarly,theFBIdidnotcomplywithitsdutyundertheFOIAtodiscloseallnon-exempt,segregableportions
of
therecords.TheFOIArequiresagenciesto"discloseanyreasonablysegregableportion
of
arecord.
..
afterdeletions
of
theportionswhichareexempt."5U.S.c.§552(b)."[T]hefocusintheFOIAisinformation,notdocuments,andanagencycannotjustifywithholdinganentiredocumentsimplybyshowingthatitcontainssomeexemptmaterial."
MeadDataCentral,Inc.
v.
UnitedStatesDep
't
of
Air
Force,
566F.2d242,260(D.C.Cir.1977);
seealsoPublicCitizenHealthResearchGroup
v.
FDA,
185F.3d898,907(D.C.Cir.1999).Even
if
some
of
therequestedrecordscontaininformationrelatedtoopenlawenforcementproceedingsanddisclosure
of
thatinformationcouldreasonablybeexpectedtointerferewiththoseproceedings,itisagainveryunlikelyall
of
theinformationintherequestedrecordsisexempt.TheFBIshouldhaveredactedanylegitimatelyexemptinformationanddisclosedtheremainder
of
therecords.Accordingly,theFBI'sinitialdeterminationthatall
of
therequestedrecordsareexemptunderExemption7(A)plainlyisinerrorandmustbereversed.Respectfullysubmitted,
!
- k
~
/ .
~
/
Adam
J.
RappaportSeniorCounselEnclosures

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