Feb 26

As a result of the cavalier way the FBI has treated our Freedom of Information requests for documents on the Hiss case, we are suing the Bureau in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit, filed on our behalf by veteran FOIA attorney James Lesar, asks that the Court order the FBI to release all of its documents on the case in unredacted form.

In 2006, we were told by the Bureau that its files contained some 500,000 pages of documents related to the case. Thirty years before, when Hiss was pursuing his Writ of Error Coram Nobis to overturn the verdict against him on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct, he was told there were less than 50,000 pages of documents.

As a result of a request filed by me in 2000, we have received less than 10,000 pages, many of them heavily redacted. Thousands of pages have been denied all together, with the Bureau citing, among other things privacy concerns (which we dispute) or a new category for denying documents: “out of scope.” They have even redacted grand jury testimony from the documents even though the minutes of the grand jury investigating Whittaker Chambers’s charges were released in 1999.

A day after he took office, President Obama ordered government departments to follow new guidelines for FOIA requests. These new rules are supposed to put into practice the President’s stated belief that a democratic government is a transparent government. This lawsuit, if not the first test case of his new policy, will certainly be one of the most important, in terms of establishing new guidelines for the release of historically important documents.

I’ll post a pdf of the court documents shortly.

Also, for those who don’t use an RSS feed of this blog or who choose to get a more immediate notice of updates, I will be sending out Twitter tweets when I add a new post (as well as new posts to my blog at thenation.com). To receive them, go to www.twitter.com and after signing up (it’s free), click “find people” and then “find people on Twitter.” In the search bar, type my username, jeffisme. It will ask you if you want to follow my tweets. Just confirm to receive them.

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