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U.S. government lawyers and a watchdog organization are at odds with each other over approximately 30 documents that were recently discovered and relate to the Obama administration’s cooperation with director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal in preparation for her upcoming film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
In January, Judicial Watch brought a lawsuit against the CIA and Defense Department, seeking access under the Freedom of Information Act to documents pertaining to the government’s role in helping the filmmakers. Partly because of the lawsuit, Judicial Watch has already attained 113 pages of secret documents, but earlier this month, a “4 to 5 inch stack of records” was discovered by the CIA.
Now the two sides are fighting over whether these new documents should be turned over right away and whether there should be any further delays in the case. In a filing on Wednesday, Judicial Watch says that the government’s behavior is unacceptable.
Attorneys for the Justice Department publicly disclosed the new documents in a filing on Tuesday. The documents are described as mostly e-mails with many of them constituting multiple pages.
DOJ lawyers will be asking a judge for summary judgment but have requested an 11-day extension to make the motion that the case be dismissed with no further information needing to be turned over. The government says it needs the time as it reviews and processes the new documents in coordination with the Defense Department and various other senior officials in the government.
Today, Judicial Watch submitted a motion opposing the delay.
Judicial Watch was informed of the documents last week, and since then, has been demanding immediate access.
In today’s filing, Judicial Watch says the government’s failure to comply with deadlines is “improper” and says it has suggested that the government “promptly produce the newly discovered documents.”
“Defendants still have not explained why a full month is required to review the recently discovered documents which this Court ordered be turned over to Plaintiff over two months ago,” says Judicial Watch in a memorandum to the judge.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton previously expressed anger about the documents in an interview with Politico.
“This new ‘discovery’ and resulting delay stinks to high heaven,” he said. “Maybe an independent criminal leak investigation can look into this issue, too.”
Judicial Watch has previously attained and released 153 pages of records that among other things, detailed meetings between Bigelow, Boal, and officials for different agencies.
Critics have suggested that White House officials leaked key information about Team Six’s killing of Osama bin Laden so as to boost the President’s re-election campaign. The documents released by Judicial Watch appear to show extraordinary access yet fail to explicitly detail any unlawful release of classified information. Of course, government officials would surely redact such classified information before releasing it in a FOIA request.
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