Judicial Watch Sues Defense Department after U.S. Army Crime Records Center Refuses to Answer FOIA Request about Illicit Use of Opiates by American Military Personnel in Afghanistan
Army Claims Records Search ‘Unfeasible to Perform’ even though Army Crime Records Center Conducted Search and Produced Records in Two Weeks in Response to Identical Freedom of Information Act Request by Judicial Watch in March 2012
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense for information from the U.S. Army Crime Records Center regarding the use of opiates by American service members in Afghanistan (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense (No. 1:17-cv-00276)).
The lawsuit was filed after the Department of Defense failed to respond to a February 3, 2016, FOIA request seeking:
- All records regarding the nonprescription use of opiates (including opium, heroin; and/or pharmaceutical opioid medications) by American service members in Afghanistan and by veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (OEF-A) or Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
The time frame for the request was identified as “January 1, 2012 to the present.”
Judicial Watch filed the FOIA lawsuit on February 13, 2017 after the Army Crime Records Center failed to:
Produce the requested records or demonstrate that the requested records are lawfully exempt from production;
notify Plaintiff of the scope of any responsive records Defendant intends to produce or withhold and the reasons for any withholdings; or
make a determination with respect to Plaintiff’s administrative appeal.
In a letter dated March 7, 2016, the Army Records Center denied Judicial Watch’s FOIA request, asserting that the request was “unfeasible to perform with the information provided” because records at the U.S. Army Crime Records Center “are indexed by personal identifiers such as names, social security numbers, dates and places of birth and other pertinent data to enable the positive identification of individuals.”
Judicial Watch appealed, referencing the Army Crime Records Center’s March 2012 production of records in response to an identical request:
In that case, the U.S. Army Crime Records Center “was able to identify, retrieve, review, apply appropriate redactions to, and release records responsive to the  request in a matter of approximately 15 days.”
At the time of the Army’s 2012 records release, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said: “Prescription [opiates] abuse can easily veer into heroin drug use. Afghanistan is the capital of this opiate production and the temptation is great there … Judicial Watch is concerned that there hasn’t been enough public discussion, and we would encourage the leadership to discuss or talk about this issue more openly.”
After Judicial Watch filed its recent FOIA lawsuit against the Defense Department, Fitton said: “The Obama administration’s multi-billion-dollar effort to counter narcotics in Afghanistan is a humiliating failure. Poppy cultivation and opium production have increased. Last year, opium production reportedly rose 43 percent in Afghanistan. The U.S. Army has gone into full-fledged cover-up mode, refusing to release data about illicit drug usage by our soldiers in that war zone. This is an opportunity for the Trump administration to begin a new era of transparency and end this obvious cover up.”