BuzzFeed sues the FBI over Breitbart records

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Investigative journalist Jason Leopold, hired by BuzzFeed News earlier this year, is suing the FBI along with BuzzFeed saying that the agency did not respond adequately to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for “all records related to Andrew Breitbart” months after the founder of Breitbart New died in 2012.

The lawsuit alleges that Leopold filed the request with the FBI in August 2012, five months after the Breitbart News founder died of heart failure. The agency responded to the request in September, saying that they did not locate any such records in their ‘main files.’

According to the lawsuit, the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy turned down Leopold’s effort to appeal the FBI’s response in 2013, saying that “the FBI is not required to perform cross-reference searches unless the requester provides ‘information sufficient to enable the FBI to determine with certainty that any cross-references it locates are identifiable to the subject of [the] request.”

The Justice Department also reportedly said that the records would have included “the dates and locations of contacts between the subject of the request and the FBI, the subject’s social security number, or other such information.”

In their lawsuit, BuzzFeed and Leopold argue that the FOIA statute “does not require a requester to provide any of that information in order for an agency to conduct a cross-reference search.”

The two are asking the court to compel the FBI to “conduct a reasonable search for records, including a cross-reference search, and to produce all non-exempt requested records.”

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