- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2017

The FBI was sued in federal court Friday amid a reporter’s years-long bid to obtain the bureau’s file on Andrew Breitbart, the late conservative commentator and founder of Breitbart News.

BuzzFeed and one of its reporters, Jason Leopold, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the FBI in a Los Angeles federal court Friday, nearly five years after Mr. Leopold first asked the government to search its archives for records related to Breitbart following his passing in March 2012.

Mr. Leopold filed his initial FOIA request in August 2012, and the FBI wrote the following month that it had failed to find any responsive documents upon searching its “main file records.” Mr. Leopold appealed, but the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy (“OIP”) ultimately ruled in the FBI’s favor.

While the FOIA request failed at first, the OIP told Mr. Leopold in its August 2013 ruling that the FBI could conduct a cross-reference search of its archives of the reporter provided the agency with additional information, such as the circumstances in which the FBI may have contacted Breitbart, among other criteria.

“Nothing in the FOIA statute requires a requester to provide this information before a cross-reference search must be conducted,” attorneys for BuzzFeed and its reporter wrote in Friday’s complaint. “As FBI and OIP are certainly aware, Andrew Breitbart was a well-known public figure and is easily identifiable by the FBI in conducting a cross-reference search.”

In filing Friday’s complaint, attorneys for BuzzFeed and Mr. Leopold asked the court to order the FBI to conduct a “reasonable” search of its records for documents sought in the initial request, in addition to legal fees and other costs.

Prior to his passing away at age 43, Breitbart was considered a powerful voice among conservative commentators before and during the Obama administration’s early years. Its former chairman, Steve Bannon, notably relinquished that role last year, and was subsequently became a top advisor to President Trump.

The lawsuit was first reported Friday by The Wrap. The case had not immediately been assigned a judge, according its docket in U.S. District Court for the District of Central California.

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