DOJ answers FOIA request about government prosecution of activists

By LOUIS FLORES

The U.S. Department of Justice has at long last answered a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, seeking records and information about the government's prosecution of activists.

The FOIA Request arose primarily around the government's reported "vindictive prosecution" of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal hero, Lt. Daniel Choi.  The initial request, dated 27 March 2013 and presented directly to a government prosecutor in Lt. Choi's case, only sought information about the government's case against Lt. Choi.  However, after the government prosecutor in that case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George, failed to answer requests for information, a U.S. Department of Justice official gave the instruction on 17 April 2013 that a FOIA request had to be submitted in writing to the Executive Office of the U.S. Attorneys, at which point the request was written and submitted on 30 April 2013 to demand records and information about the government's prosecution of activists, generally, in addition to requests for records and information about the government's case against Lt. Choi.

In delivering its response on Monday to the FOIA Request, the U.S. Department of Justice improbably wrote, in part, that there were "no responsive records" to the FOIA Request, adding that the agency was making a "discretionary release" of 331 pages of "records that are publicly available to the general public."

The FOIA Request had sought records and information about how the government balances the First Amendment rights, other Constitutional rights, civil liberties, and other civil rights of activists as the government contemplates bringing criminal charges against activists over their activism.

A cursory review of the 331 pages shows that the records appeared to constitute the pleadings filed in the government's case against Lt. Choi.

According to a newsletter to be issued by Progress Queens on Tuesday, Progress Queens described the government's long, overdue production as, "This is a total bullshit response." 

The U.S. Department of Justice finally and only nominally responded to the FOIA Request after a lawsuit was filed in Brooklyn federal court, seeking to compel the government's compliance with FOIA.

An initial conference in connection with the lawsuit is scheduled before U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann on 16 September 2015 at 9:30 in Brooklyn federal court, a conference which counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice, Rukhsanah L. Singh, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's eastern district, has said she would seek to cancel once the U.S. Department of Justice produced a response to the FOIA Request.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Singh added that, once she moved to cancel the initial conference, she would apply to dismiss the lawsuit by filing a motion for summary judgment.

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