A federal judge slapped the FBI, or maybe just laughed at it, for making “transparently implausible” arguments resisting a prison inmate's Freedom of Information Act requests, McClatchy Newspapers reports. The feds, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., wrote, argued that the “FOIA request need not be disclosed because they reside on two CDs and a thumb drive.” The FBI seemed to say that information was exempt from disclosure because of the medium it was stored on.
The FOIA requests came from Gregory Bartko, serving the fourth year of a 23-year prison term for conspiracy, mail fraud, and selling unregistered securities. He's seeking documents concerning the federal prosecutor who got him convicted. The FBI and the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility released some, but not all, of the documents Bartko wanted. Boasberg allowed Bartko's FOIA pursuit to continue. Of particular note was his flat dismissal of part of the government's argument for withholding the CDs and thumb drive. “The Bureau's rationale seems to be that the electronic media in question are not 'records' for FOIA purposes because they are physical items that were presented to prosecutors as evidence,” Boasberg wrote. “Why this reasoning would exclude CDs that hold documents in digital form but not, say, the printer paper that will eventually hold this opinion is beyond the Court.”