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Watchdog: Accountability

Lawsuit follows Navy's stonewall on stonewalling information

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Watchdog,Judicial Watch,National Security,Kelly Cohen,Accountability,Navy,Navy Yard shooting,Transparency,FOIA

Some parts of the government have a history of stonewalling on information requests, but now one branch of the U.S. military has been accused of stonewalling on its procedures on stonewalling.

The Department of the Navy refuses to disclose its procedures for how it answers -- or doesn't answer -- Freedom of Information Act requests.

The Navy has now refused to respond to a FOIA request by Judicial Watch for more than three months, prompting a lawsuit by the taxpayer watchdog group.

The original Jan. 13 request sought "any and all records concerning or relating to procedures for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. Such records include, but are not limited to handbooks, guidelines, policies, rules or memoranda."

So, what prompted the original FOIA request by Judicial Watch?

On Jan. 7, the Navy's FOIA public liaison Robin Patterson accidentally sent a memo to Scott MacFarlane, a reporter in Washington, D.C., "detailing a strategy for stonewalling his FOIA request for information concerning the Navy Yard shooting in September 2013," according to Judicial Watch.

The Navy memo calls MacFarlane's request a "fishing expedition," and recommends several methods FOIA staff could take to thwart his efforts.

Adding to the drama is a Navy tweet from Jan. 7 reading, "The #USNavy remains committed to transparency & responding to FOIA requests in a timely and professional manner. CC @politico @Gawker."

“It is a travesty for Judicial Watch to have to file a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of the Navy to get information about how it responds to FOIA requests,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.

“The Navy is now stonewalling us about its own stonewall — this is theatre of the absurd.”

Read the original FOIA request here.

Editor's note: Judicial Watch is representing the Washington Examiner in the newspaper's federal lawsuit seeking access to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau records under FOIA.

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Kelly Cohen

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner