FBI officials said this week that they would not disclose investigation records related to Hillary Clinton to a watchdog group because there was no significant public interest in the documents. In a letter to New York attorney Ty Clevenger, who filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the material, FBI records manager David Hardy said that the Bureau saw no reason to comply with the request.
“We have determined you have not sufficiently demonstrated that the public’s interest in disclosure outweighs personal privacy interests of the subject,” Hardy wrote. “It is incumbent upon the requester to provide documentation regarding the public’s interest in the operations and activities of the government before records can be processed pursuant to the FOIA.”
Of course, you would have had to have lived in a cave for the last two years to believe that there is not overwhelming public interest in this material. It was the focus of the 2016 presidential election, for God’s sake! Not only has there been intense American interest in the investigation, but indeed, worldwide attention. And in the aftermath of at least two highly-questionable public moves by then-FBI Director James Comey, a shocking and still unexplained meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton, and the widespread suspicion that not everything about this investigation was on the up-and-up, the FBI’s response to this request is nothing short of an outrage.
In remarks to the Washington Times, Clevenger said he was baffled by the response.
“I’m just stunned,” he said. “This is exactly what I would have expected had Mrs. Clinton won the election, but she didn’t. It looks like the Obama administration is still running the FBI. How can a story receive national news coverage and not be a matter of public interest? If this is the new standard, then there’s no such thing as a public interest exception.”
It’s important to note that what Clevenger was requesting was not the contents of Hillary Clinton’s backroom, private server, nor anything that could be reasonably interpreted as an invasion of the former secretary’s privacy. Clevenger’s request was limited to material relating to House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz’s inquiry into the FBI’s investigation – documents that should be made public record given the amount of controversy generated by the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute. There remain significant questions about the integrity of this investigation – questions that could be laid to rest (or not) by a public release of this sort.
We don’t know if “Obama is still running the FBI,” but it’s clear that there are people inside the agency deeply afraid of giving the American people a glimpse behind the curtain. You have to wonder why that is.