Journalists shouldn’t have to sue to get public information.
BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold is a prodigious Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requester who files hundreds of public records requests and dozens of lawsuits a year against federal agencies. In fact, the only news organization that filed more FOIA lawsuits against the government last year was The New York Times.
Most transparency advocates and journalists would think of this as a feather in Leopold’s cap, but according to government lawyers, filing too many lawsuits against agencies for failing to abide by federal records law is a good reason to delay further transparency.
U.S. Justice Department lawyers filed a motion Monday in response to one of Leopold’s many FOIA lawsuits, asking a federal court to allow the National Security Agency to delay releasing a large tranche of documents to him, citing in part his extensive litigation to get public records.
The documents in question, reports from the agency’s inspector general, contain roughly 22,000 pages concerning allegations of misconduct at one of the country’s top spy agencies during 2013 and 2014.
The motion, which asks the court to allow the NSA to delay processing Leopold’ request until it comes up in the long backlog of pending requests, says the NSA has been overwhelmed with FOIA requests since the 2013 leaks by Edward Snowden that revealed the agency’s dragnet surveillance programs. However, the motion also goes to some lengths to paint Leopold as someone who is abusing the FOIA system.