FBI places limitation on public viewing of files
Tuesday, January 25, 2005The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation—the organization responsible for enforcing federal laws—has won a battle that could make it much harder for the public to access its files. If it is true that the requirements of scrupulous indexing and searching of files have been relaxed to the point of making subjective the process of retrieving them, it is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which states that the public may view files of the unclassified category. From the perspective of the FBI, as deduced from their arguments in the case, the burden of doing complete searches is unreasonable.
Currently, only indexes of the files are searched in response to requests based on the FOIA. A lawsuit filed by the brother of a deceased federal inmate claimed that his specific request turned up no results, despite the proven existence of the files relating to the case against his brother, and the circumstances leading up to his death in prison, which was ruled a suicide despite the appearance of a violent death.
Critics of the government case, from the fields of journalism and academic law, contend that it is possible that the transferring of files from paper to electronic records is being used as an excuse to avoid doing complete searches that may turn up evidence of official wrongdoing.
- "FBI Fights for Limited Document Searches" — , 25 January 2005
- Michael J. Sniffen. "Court ruling could lessen public access to FBI records" — , 22 January 2005