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Trump Tweets on Investigation Don’t Undercut Glomar, Senate Democrats to file FOIA Suit for Kavanaugh Docs, and More: FRNFORMSUM 9/13/2018

September 13, 2018

DC Circuit: Trump Tweets on Investigation Don’t Undercut Glomar

The District Court for the DC Circuit is upholding the DOJ’s Glomar response – in which an agency claims it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records – to FOIA requests seeking information about a DOJ investigation into President Trump. The plaintiffs – the James Madison Project and Politico’s Josh Gerstein – argued that the DOJ should not invoke a Glomar response after Trump issued Tweets that appear to confirm he is a target of an FBI investigation. The court, however, claims Trump’s tweets lack enough specificity to undercut the Glomar.

Senate Democrats to file FOIA Suit for Kavanaugh Documents

Senate Democrats filed FOIA requests with the National Archives and Department of Justice for records on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, including the years he spent as lawyer and staff secretary to President George W. Bush – and have yet to receive a response. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said they would be filing suit later this week to try and secure the documents’ release. Democrats argue the documents are of high public interest, and that “the time period is crucial for understanding Kavanaugh’s thinking on controversial issues including torture and surveillance.”

DHS Transferred FEMA Funds to ICE Detention Centers

A recently-released budget document shows the Federal Emergency Management Agency was nearly $10 million poorer by the start of this year’s hurricane season because the Department of Homeland Security transferred the money out of the disaster relief agency’s operations and supports budget and “into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations.” FEMA is refuting specific claims that the funds came from accounts dedicated specifically to disaster relief. The budget document was released by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) as Hurricane Florence barrels towards the Eastern seaboard and as President Trump defends his agency’s handling of last year’s hurricane season. FEMA was criticized for its response to last year’s storm season, particularly its response to the devastation in Puerto Rico; “New data shows that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the hurricane and many people continue to live without power on the island. An after-action report by FEMA released in July shows that they agency vastly underestimated how much food and fresh water it would need, and how hard it would be to get additional supplies to the island.”

First Meeting of the 2018-2019 FOIA Federal Advisory Committee

The FOIA Advisory Committee met for the first time for its 2018-2019 session. During the meeting the new panel identified the topics its three subcommittees will focus on – Records Management, Vision and Time/Volume. The next meeting will be held on November 29.

FOI Sheds Light on Bizarre Ethics Breach at Colorado State

Public records requests to Colorado State University and its police department have helped unveil the strange story of former CSU chemistry professor Brian McNaughton. The story, recently published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, shows McNaughton as an associate professor obsessed with securing a raise, more money for his lab, and tenure – to the extent that he forged an offer letter from the University of Minnesota, which included a promise of a $1.5 million grant to support his research, to prod CSU to cede to his demands. The ruse worked; McNaughton got a $16,000 raise and additional upgrades for his lab.

But things began falling apart when his wife, Stacy, left him. Shortly thereafter, an anonymous letter arrived at the CSU provost office with allegations of McNaughton’s falsehoods. CSU – a public university funded by taxpayers – reached an agreement with McNaughton that would allow him to leave quietly to a position in Delaware. Soon a private investigator, frustrated with the university’s response, began digging, filing FOI requests, and seemingly launching a targeted social media campaign against McNaughton. McNaughton was ultimately charged by Larimer County prosecutors with “attempting to influence a public servant, a felony punishable by up to six years in prison” – a charge he pleaded down to 100 hours community service.

TBT Pick – Declassified Documents on the September 11, 1973 Military Coup in Chile

This week’s #TBT pick is chosen with the 45th anniversary of the military coup led by Chilean General Augusto Pinochet in mind. The posting is a 1998 selection of declassified documents analyzed by the Archive’s Chile Documentation Project director, Peter Kornbluh, and sheds light on the violent overthrow of the Allende government and its aftermath. The documents featured in the posting include:

  • Cables written by U.S. Ambassador Edward Korry after Allende’s election, detailing conversations with President Eduardo Frei on how to block the president-elect from being inaugurated. The cables contain detailed descriptions and opinions on the various political forces in Chile, including the Chilean military, the Christian Democrat Party, and the U.S. business community.
  • CIA memoranda and reports on “Project FUBELT”–the codename for covert operations to promote a military coup and undermine Allende’s government. The documents, including minutes of meetings between Henry Kissinger and CIA officials, CIA cables to its Santiago station, and summaries of covert action in 1970, provide a clear paper trail to the decisions and operations against Allende’s government.
  • National Security Council strategy papers which record efforts to “destabilize” Chile economically, and isolate Allende’s government diplomatically, between 1970 and 1973.

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