[CAMBRIDGE, MA] The Federal Bureau of Investigation is claiming the dissertation research of Ryan Shapiro, a PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will “irreparably damage national security.” Radical and unprecedented in nature, the FBI’s efforts in this case stand to change the landscape of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as we know it.
In an exclusive report for Mother Jones, Will Potter, author of Green is The New Red, breaks down the chilling implications of the FBI’s pending challenge to Shapiro’s research. In part the FBI is claiming the following:
1.) The FBI is arguing in court that an MIT PhD candidate’s prolific Freedom of Information Act research about FBI investigations of animal rights activists is a threat to national security.
2.) The FBI is employing radical and at times unprecedented measures to exempt itself from compliance with the Freedom of Information Act in this case. These measures include a radical new application of a Cold War-era FOIA doctrine, a radical new application of the FOIA “nuclear option,” and submission of a secret declaration from the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division to the judge about the alleged threat posed by the MIT student’s dissertation research.
3.) The FBI’s efforts to exempt itself from the Freedom of Information Act in this case are so extreme and sweeping that, if the judge rules for the FBI, it could have a devastating impact on other FOIA requestors’ ability to obtain any records from the FBI and government agencies more broadly.
“I wish I could say I’m surprised the FBI is labeling my academic research a threat to national security,” said Shapiro. “I wish I could say I’m surprised the FBI is attempting to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act by invoking national security. I wish I could say I’m surprised the FBI refuses to make public its justification for attempting the above, again on the grounds of national security. But I can’t. Since its earliest days, the FBI has viewed political dissent as a security threat. And since the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI has viewed efforts to force Bureau compliance with the law in the same light.”