Federal Judge Shuts Down FBI’s Attempted FOIA Power Grab: Rules FBI May Not Unilaterally Invent New Exemptions

[Washington, DC]  As reported in an exclusive report by Sam Thielman for The Guardian, a team of expert FOIA requestors and their attorneys has scored a major Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) victory against the FBI. This victory has three key parts: i) The FBI must release documents about FBI FOIA searches; ii) The FBI may not unilaterally invent new FOIA exemptions, and iii) The FBI may not unilaterally decide which Bureau documents do and do not have value to the public.

Shapiro FOIA

The FBI has long been notorious for the frequent poverty of the document searches it performs in response to FOIA requests. The consistent inadequacy of the FBI’s FOIA searches has even led to the Bureau receiving an “award” for “worst Freedom of Information Act performance by a federal agency” from a leading open government group, as well as a declaration from the Associated Press that, “If information were a river, the FBI would be a dam.”

In order to document and challenge the FBI’s deficient FOIA search practices, the plaintiffs in this case, including MIT’s Ryan Shapiro, submitted FOIA requests to the FBI for documents about the FBI’s processing of specific FOIA requests. The FBI refused to release the requested documents, asserting the Bureau has a blanket policy against releasing documents about FBI FOIA searches unless those searches occurred over 25 years ago. The plaintiffs filed suit to challenge this policy. As Judge Randolph D. Moss (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia) summarized in his recent ruling, “This is, in short, a case about how the FBI applies FOIA to FOIA.” As Judge Moss also made clear in his ruling, the FBI’s policy is “fundamentally at odds” with FOIA.

No New Animal Lab Fights Back Against Skanska Injunction with Anti-SLAPP Special Motion to Strike

[Hillsboro, OR] On January 29th, No New Animal Lab, with representation from the Civil Liberties Defense Center, filed an anti-SLAPP Special Motion to Strike against injunctions filed on behalf of two executives of Skanska USA. Skanska and its key decision makers have been the subject of a year-long protest campaign, organized under the banner of No New Animal Lab, for their $90 million contract to build a large, underground animal research lab for the University of Washington (UW).

NNAL Skanska Home Protest

Skanska executives at the corporation’s Portland office filed for injunctions against four activists and “No New Animal Lab” in an attempt to stifle the growing national protests. Such lawsuits are known as “SLAPPs” (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) and are often used by corporations against protest movements in an attempt to chill dissent and disrupt campaign organizing. Rather than outright criminalizing protest activity, corporations attempt to exploit the legal system, dragging grassroots activists through frivolous civil court proceedings and draining and redirecting both time and material resources. SLAPPs exist to shrewdly muzzle movements that seek to hold corporations and their executives accountable and are backdoor attempts to legislate unreasonable restrictions upon First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.

#LoveTrumpsEverything on Eve of GOP Debate as Carolinians Gather for Vigil at Mosque to Counter Xenophobic Rhetoric

[Charleston, SC]  Local Carolinians will hold a candlelight prayer vigil at the Central Mosque of Charleston {1082 King St, Charleston, SC} to pray for the GOP Presidential hopefuls on the eve of the debate. The group, comprised of members of South Carolina’s queer, muslim, christian, women’s rights, and latino communities, will gather at 5:45pm to pray for them to “know, experience and share God’s love rather than human hate, greed and hostility.”

“We come from different faith traditions, but we all recognize love and compassion as key tenants of our respective faiths,” said Pastor Thomas Dixon. “Today, we pray for the candidate’s running for President, that God will protect them and show them the way to encourage love, compassion and community and to reject hate, prejudice, violence and greed.”

Journalist Will Potter Describes Being First and Only Journalist to Visit Federal Communication Management Unit

In a new TED Talk released today, investigative journalist and TED Senior Fellow Will Potter describes his experience as the first and only journalist to visit secretive prisons on U.S. soil that are referred to by prisoners and guards as “Little Guantanamo.”

Communications Management Units, or CMUs, are experimental prison units in the United States for so-called “second-tier terrorists.” There’s an estimated 60-70 prisoners in CMUs and they are overwhelmingly Muslim, along with several animal rights and environmental activists.

“According to the Bureau of Prisons, CMUs are for prisoners with quote ‘inspirational significance.’ I think that’s a polite way of saying they are political prisons, for political prisoners,” Potter says in the talk. “Prisoners are sent to the CMU because of their race, religion, or political beliefs.”

Hundreds of Activists to Protest Construction of Underground Animal Research Facility at The University of Washington

[Seattle, WA] This Saturday, April 25, 2015, at 2pm PT, hundreds of activists are expected to take the streets to protest The University of Washington (UW) and Skanska Construction, who are attempting to construct an underground animal research facility designed to expand the University’s cadre of primate and canine subjects exponentially.

Primate Lab Manuel

Creative actions and protests, coordinated in part by the No New Animal Lab campaign, have intensified scrutiny regarding UW’s animal research, including the 2014 USDA findings that they improperly cared for their animals.