Heritage Oversight Project Files 7 FOIA Lawsuits Against DOJ, FBI for ‘Selectively Enforcing Law’

Mark Tapscott
By Mark Tapscott
March 6, 2023Politics
Heritage Oversight Project Files 7 FOIA Lawsuits Against DOJ, FBI for ‘Selectively Enforcing Law’
Kevin Roberts, President of The Heritage Foundation, in Washington on June 30, 2022. (Matthew Pearson/CPI Studios)

Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI officials failed to respond as required by law to seven Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, so the conservative think tank is taking the government to court.

“Biden’s DOJ and FBI made clear they are perfectly willing to selectively enforce the law. This double standard-driven war, particularly on conservatives, must stop,” Heritage President Kevin Roberts said in a statement announcing the seven lawsuits, which were filed on March 6 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“When the top law enforcement agencies in the country refuse to comply with the very laws they’ve sworn to enforce, true accountability is necessary. This is precisely why the Heritage Oversight Project is filing these lawsuits. Americans have a right to know why and how the FBI is targeting everyday Americans and others whom Joe Biden, Merrick Garland, and their lieutenants smear as ‘domestic terrorists.’”

Federal officials are required by the FOIA to acknowledge receiving requests submitted seeking government documents within 20 days and to then conduct reasonably comprehensive searches for the materials being sought. They’re also required to inform the requestor of an expected completion date, any reproduction costs that may be incurred, and whether fees will be waived in the public interest.

Each of the suits claims that federal officials failed to comply with the law in response to all seven FOIA requests from the conservative think tank, beginning with one filed Sept. 12, 2022, concerning documented work hours devoted by FBI agents to “investigating any and all matters related to left-wing domestic terrorism, to include ‘violent extremist agendas—anarchists like Antifa and other agitators’ arising from the summer 2020 riots.”

A Nov. 18, 2022, FOIA request to the FBI from Heritage sought documents concerning information provided by FBI whistleblowers to Republican staff members of the House Judiciary Committee regarding an internal program at the law enforcement agency believed to be titled “Operation Bronze Griffin.” The program is central to an alleged “special relationship” between the FBI and Facebook, according to the FOIA request.

Under Operation Bronze Griffin, Facebook provides the bureau with users’ content information without informing the individuals involved.

“The type of user content Facebook provides has a partisan focus, tending to concern users from only one side of the political spectrum,” according to the whistleblowers. “The FBI’s willingness to accept this political speech information from Facebook—outside of routine investigative pathways—further threatens Americans’ constitutional rights.”

The third suit concerns a FOIA request for information and documents regarding a June 2020 incident during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest and riot in which a group of FBI agents “demonstrated political solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters by kneeling, clapping, and making other gestures affirming sympathy with the BLM cause.” The fourth suit also seeks documents in connection with the BLM events.

The fifth suit covers a FOIA request seeking information and documents regarding the number of work hours by FBI special agents assigned to the Washington Field Office in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol.

The sixth suit regards a FOIA request for information related to the transcribed witness interviews provided to two congressional committees by Nellie Ohr, a researcher for Fusion GPS who has been reportedly linked to Christopher Steele of the infamous “Steele Dossier,” which falsely alleged former Republican President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with elements of Russian intelligence to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee. Ohr’s husband was a longtime DOJ senior executive.

The seventh suit is focused on a FOIA request for documents and information regarding the discovery of classified documents held by President Joe Biden at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in the nation’s capital.

The classified documents request sought “all communications with the White House counsel’s office” regarding the materials at the Penn Biden facility, “all communications with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)” on those materials, “all communications with President Joe Biden’s personal attorneys” on the materials, all internal DOJ documents mentioning the materials, and the calendars of all Biden administration political appointees concerning the materials.

A DOJ spokesman didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment on the Heritage FOIA litigation.

“It is inexcusable that The Heritage Foundation has to go to federal court to fight the FBI’s unlawful withholding of these records,” Mike Howell, director of the Heritage Oversight Project, said in the statement announcing the litigation. “The truth is that these records do not belong to the FBI—they belong to the American people. This is not, and historically has not been, a partisan issue.

“Historically, reform has happened at the FBI after large disclosures of information in the public’s interest. That is the process we are initiating here, and we are not waiting for anyone on Capitol Hill or the media to do that job for us. It is past time for the weaponization of our federal law enforcement to end.

“That is why we are suing and that is why we will win.”

Prior to joining the think tank in 2021, Howell managed oversight relations with Congress for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during the Trump administration. Prior to his DHS tenure, Howell was counsel to oversight investigations and judicial nomination efforts in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

From The Epoch Times