Update: Iraq FOIA

Question: is the media using the FOIA enough? Possibly, but possibly not.

City News Service
November 23, 2005 Wednesday

The Los Angeles Times filed a lawsuit today seeking U.S. government records related to the presence of private security firms in Iraq. The Times asked in April for a database of reports contractors in Iraq submit when they are involved in a violent incident.

The newspaper asked for the records to be released under the Freedom of Information Act. That request was partially denied, with The Times receiving only a heavily redacted version of the data that omitted the names of the security team members as well as the names of armed forces members and government employees who were named, according to the suit. A Times appeal of the FOIA decision was denied July 25. In the lawsuit filed in federal court, The Times asks a judge to order the government to release the names of contractors involved in the violent incidents, and to provide a detailed explanation for each record that is being withheld. No one at the Army’s media office could be reached to comment on the lawsuit. The complaint states that although the press has been kept apprised of the increasing U.S. military casualties in Iraq, the attacks by insurgents and other activities in Iraq, the role of private contractors has received less attention. "They routinely fire at Iraqi civilians and occasionally are involved in so-called ‘friendly fire’
incidents with U.S. troops. In addition, many of these contractors themselves have been killed or wounded fighting with insurgents. These civilian casualties — both Iraqi and American — are a matter of great public interest," the suit states. The suit adds that the public is interested in the accountability of private security contractors, who are largely unregulated. "The Times, therefore, has been forced to file this lawsuit to compel the government to release agency records that will shed light on the implementation of U.S. policy in Iraq, and help the public to understand and evaluate these governmental operations and activities," the suit states.

Courtesy David Isenberg, BASIC