- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2017

A digital privacy rights group has filed a lawsuit in an effort to force the FBI to release information about its investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit this week hoping to force the bureau to publicly release emails, memos, reports and other information related to its investigation into Russian hackers’ cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee.

Citing the widespread debate on the role the Russian government had in the cyberattacks, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said that his advocacy group filed the lawsuit in an effort to inform the public. He praised efforts underway in Congress to propel disclosure of more information about what intelligence agencies know about the attacks.

“We also believe it is vitally important for the public to have access to information about how the federal agencies charged with protecting the United States from foreign cyberattack responded to this threat,” Mr. Rotenberg said Thursday. “We believe the public has a right to know if the government is doing what is supposed to do.”

“The release of these records is necessary for the public to evaluate the FBI response to the Russian interference, assess threats to American democratic institutions, and to ensure the accountability of the federal agency with the legal authority to safeguard the American people against foreign cyberattacks,” states the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The lawsuit comes after EPIC filed a FOIA request with the FBI seeking the documents, but received no response on whether the agency intends to comply or expedite the request as asked by the group.

Law enforcement agencies are exempt from having to disclose information as part of FOIA requests would interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigations.

Given the amount of information the FBI has released to the public already about the investigations, EPIC attorney Alan Butler said he believes the lawsuit could be successful in compelling the disclosures.

The lawsuit is at least the second filed against the FBI as part of an effort to enhance disclosures about the investigations.

In December, journalist Jason Leopold and Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral candidate Ryan Shapiro filed a similar FOIA lawsuit in an effort to force the FBI to disclose information on various matters related to the 2016 presidential race, including topics ranging from its probe of the Clinton Foundation to the rise of the so-called alt-right.

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