Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Court Says Muslim Surveillance Documents May Not Be Withheld Under FOIA "Law Enforcement" Exemption

In ACLU of North California v. FBI, (ND CA, March 23, 2015), in a Freedom of Information Act suit, a California federal district court held that the FBI cannot use the exemption for records compiled for law enforcement purposes to withhold documents relating to the investigation and surveillance of Muslim communities, and collection of ethnic and racial data, in Northern California. The court said:
In short, the FBI employs many various techniques to combat unlawful activity, some of which, if publicly disclosed, would undermine their effectiveness. 
That this may well be true does not, without more, permit the FBI to apply Exemption 7 [the "law enforcement" exemption] to withhold or redact information about such tactics, however. Neither the Hardy declarations nor the FBI’s pleadings tether the activities the withheld documents concern to the enforcement of any particular law....  Exemption 7 is not the appropriate umbrella under which to shield these documents from public view.
The ACLU's blog has more information on the decision.