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ATI NASA Hansen FOIA lawsuit

ATI NASA Hansen FOIA lawsuit

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Published by climscifoi

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Published by: climscifoi on Jun 22, 2011
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09/03/2013

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
AMERICAN TRADITION INSTITUTE )2020 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. )Number 186 )Washington, D.C. 20006 )))Plaintiff, ))v. ) Civil Action No. __ CV____ (___))NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND )SPACE ADMINISTRATION, )Headquarters )Washington, DC 20546-0001 )))Defendant. )
COMPLAINT AND PRAYER FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
1.
 
Plaintiff AMERICAN TRADITION INSTITUTE (“ATI”) for its complaintagainst Defendant NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION(“NASA”) alleges on knowledge as to Plaintiff, and on information and belief as to allother matters, as follows:2.
 
This is an action under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C.§ 552, to compel production of certain NASA records relating to agency and agencyemployee compliance with their statutory and regulatory ethics and disclosureobligations. In a FOIA request initiated in January 2011, ATI sought documentsconcerning the integrity of internal NASA compliance with and oversight of ethics anddisclosure laws and specifically involving the conduct of one NASA scientist. For overfour months NASA has refused to comply with a specific request for records, obstructing
 
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the FOIA process. The public needs transparency from its government about climatescience and about agency performance of its statutory duties, particularly involvingethics, with debate about transparency, climate-related science and related policiescapturing sustained national attention. Yet NASA has repeatedly and unlawfully refusedto produce the requested materials. NASA is accountable to the taxpayers and to thepublic. It should not be free to disregard its FOIA obligations. Plaintiff has exhausted itsadministrative remedies and has no recourse but this lawsuit.
PARTIES
3.
 
Plaintiff ATI is a public policy research and educational foundation with aphysical presence in Washington, D.C., dedicated to advancing responsible, economicallysustainable environmental policy. ATI's programs include research, investigative journalism, and its Environmental Law Center, which has a transparency initiativeseeking records relating to environmental and particularly climate change science andpolicy.4.
 
Defendant NASA is a federal agency whose stated mission is to pioneer the futurein space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. NASA’s GoddardInstitute of Space Studies (“GISS”) is a division of NASA based in New York City andstyles itself as a “leading center of atmospheric modeling and of climate change.”
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
5.
 
This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) because thisaction is brought in the District of Columbia and 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the resolutionof disputes under FOIA presents a federal question.6.
 
Venue is proper in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because Defendant
 
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NASA’s principal place of business is in the District of Columbia.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND
7.
 
This lawsuit seeks to compel NASA to respond fully and completely to aFOIA request dated January 19, 2011. The request sought information relating to thepersonnel or ethics file(s) of NASA employee Dr. James E. Hansen, specificallypertaining to the Ethics in Government Act, Hansen's outside employment and otheractivities, and his efforts to obtain the required waivers for such activities, which recordsreveal and otherwise reflect upon whether he and NASA have complied with certain andrespective financial disclosure, reporting and other ethics-related obligations.8.
 
NASA has refused to produce certain requested information and to provide entireor redacted versions of a specific NASA personnel form. NASA here continues itsdocumented practice of converting the FOIA process—which is intended to providecitizens with prompt and complete disclosure—into a protracted battle in which requestsare denied on plainly incorrect, inapplicable or otherwise unsupportable grounds. In theinstant matter Plaintiff’s request seeks to shed light on agency performance of itsstatutory duties, which NASA improperly recasts in order to seek shelter in a “morestringent standard for ‘agency wrongdoer claims’”, similarly dismisses as “mereunsupported allegations” internal records provided by Plaintiff which represent primafacie evidence of NASA not fulfilling its statutory and regulatory obligations, and refuseswithout explanation to consider redacting records to withhold potentially sensitiveinformation while providing transparency consistent with FOIA’s intent.

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