--For Immediate Release--
FOIA Law Suit Reaches Boston’s Federal Appeals Court
FBI Cannot Locate Documents, Again
On September 12, 2002 the 1st Circuit Federal Appeals Court in Boston will hear arguments from the FBI and the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization (FIRO) over the release of data and analyses from the FBI’s investigation into TWA Flight 800. Flight 800 crashed off the coast of Long Island in 1996, killing all 230 onboard.
FIRO is hoping to gain access to the reports and laboratory analyses of foreign objects found during victim autopsy examinations. Some of those objects have been determined to be consistent with pellets used in anti-aircraft missiles. Pellets were also found in the victims of the October 4th, 2001 Sibir Airlines crash over the Black Sea, and helped confirm that a Ukrainian missile downed that jetliner.
Graeme Sephton is FIRO’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordinator and launched the lawsuit on July 17, 2000 after the FBI refused to release the requested documents.
The FBI is not expected to deny that the requested documents and analyses exist, but rather that they cannot find them. Their brief to the Appeals court cites an affidavit by FBI FOIA attorney Scott Hodes that explains how the search for the documents was conducted. Hodes describes a preliminary search of the FBI’s Central Records System as the means for locating the documents. However, former FBI Crime Lab officials say that the requested reports and analyses are not stored in the CRS, but are stored in a separate FBI Laboratory database. Neither the FBI Brief, nor Hodes’ affidavit mentions any search of an FBI Laboratory database.
FIRO will argue that the FBI’s search was inadequate, and does not meet the burden of “reasonableness” to which the FBI must adhere in all FOIA searches. “We will simply ask them to look harder,” says Septhon, “It’s like saying you can’t find your wallet without ever checking your pockets.” Arguments will be heard at the Boston Federal Appeals Court at 9:30 AM at 1
Courthouse Way, Boston.
Contact: Graeme Sephton: 413-545-6504 or 413-367-2253