JULY 18, 2013
‘The necessity of conducting the global war on terror should not render the U.S. government so afraid of its own shadow that it refuses to release truthful information to the American people when required by FOIA.’
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed a key motion (“Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and in Support of Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment”) against the Department of the Navy challenging the withholding of information relating to “descriptions of the actual funeral and burial of bin Laden.” The cross-motion for summary judgment was filed on July 11, 2013, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
The Judicial Watch legal move comes in the midst of its ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DOD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seeking “all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011” (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense et al. (No. 1:11-cv-00890)).
Specifically, Judicial Watch challenges decisions by the Pentagon to withhold certain information about the burial, such as details about the actual ceremony.
In refusing to comply with the Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit, the Department of Navy claimed that releasing the information could harm national security by (1) providing the nation’s adversaries with “information they could use to thwart future sensitive military operation, and (2) inciting al-Qaida members to attack United States citizens.”
In response, Judicial Watch informed the court that it “seeks only descriptions of the burial and funeral, and not any sensitive military information which could be used to thwart possible future military operation.” Judicial Watch also argues that the information it seeks, “cannot be withheld under the D.C. Circuit Court’s recently announced ‘inciting violence’ test in Judicial Watch v. DoD.” That test, which arose in a case disputing the withholding of images of the deceased bin Laden, required the government to present evidence of a “reasonably analogous” situation in which release of information incited violence in the past.
“The necessity of conducting the global war on terror should not render the U.S. government so afraid of its own shadow that it refuses to release truthful information to the American people when required by FOIA,” Judicial Watch attorneys argue in the new court filing.
Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA lawsuit against the DOD and CIA on May 13, 2011. On April 26, 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia blocked access to the materials requested in a decision that was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on May 21, 2013.
“The Obama administration’s unprecedented stonewalling on basic information about the bin Laden operation makes a mockery of President Obama’s promises of transparency,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And the courts should not rubberstamp this continuing denial of the American people’s right to access government information. There is no provision of the Freedom of Information Act that allows documents to be kept secret because their release might offend our terrorist enemies.”