Thursday, November 5, 2015

MRFF sues the Air Force over records

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 3:59 PM

Enough is enough, says the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Today, the nonprofit filed a federal lawsuit against the Air Force and the Air Force Academy over failure to disclosure documents sought under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mikey Weinstein: Wants USAFA to cough up the records. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mikey Weinstein: Wants USAFA to cough up the records.
Specifically, in 2011 MRFF sought records of MRFF's founder, Mikey Weinstein, and his family members, including two sons who graduated from the academy as did their father, and his wife, as well as David Mullin, a longtime MRFF client and former professor of economics at the academy.

The records request came after sources told Weinstein the former dean of faculty, Brig. Gen. Dana Born, had ordered a COIN against MRFF and Weinstein, meaning counter insurgency. (Born is no longer at the academy.)

It's the latest volley in a long-standing acrimonious relationship between the academy and MRFF, which was founded because of the favoritism being shown fundamentalist Christian beliefs by faculty, staff and cadets. That favoritism is well documented in periodic "climate surveys" conducted by the academy. Former Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa acknowledged the problem and tried to tackle it before retiring in 2005. MRFF has seen some success since then, but continues to represent hundreds of "clients" at the academy and other bases in the area, not to mention thousands across the globe.

According to the lawsuit:
MRFF did not receive any response to the Request from USAFA within twenty (20) days
of its Request, as mandated by FOIA. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i).

MRFF did not receive any notice from USAFA of unusual circumstances requiring an
extension of the statutory deadline within twenty (20) days of its Request, as mandated by FOIA. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(b)(ii).

USAFA did not respond to MRFF’s August Request until March 2, 2012, approximately
seven months after the statutory deadline to respond.

On March 2, 2012, USAFA notified MRFF that it was working on the Request and would
produce responsive documents at the earliest possible date (“Notification”). The Notification is attached as Ex. 2 and is incorporated herein.

MRFF received a “first interim response” (“First Response”) from USAFA on May 17,
2012, which included 1,000 pages of documents responsive to only two of the eight categories included in MRFF’s Request.
Even the documents that were produced were "improperly redacted," the lawsuit alleges.

In February of this year, MRFF received another interim response, saying an additional 7,216 documents had been collected as possibly responsive, only 3,173 of which had been reviewed for release. But the documents were withheld, the academy said, because they contained "“personal information in other files that, if disclosed would result in a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

That response went on to say the balance of the documents would be produced no later than June 30 and noted the MRFF request had been withdrawn.

Not true, the lawsuit states.

The academy later said it would produce more documents by Sept. 15, which it did not, the lawsuit says.

All that is a violation of FOIA and demonstrates "a pattern, practice, and/or policy to refuse to abide by the terms of FOIA and such a pattern, practice, and/or policy will cause continued injury to MRFF in connection with future FOIA requests," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks the following relief:

1. An order directing USAFA to release all records requested in MRFF’s FOIA Request;
2. An injunction against USAFA from relying on Exemption 6, as well as any other
FOIA exemption not previously relied upon in its withholding of documents;
3. An order stating that USAFA’s actions violate the terms of FOIA;
4. A finding that USAFA’s actions are arbitrary and capricious; and
5. An order directing USAFA to pay all costs and attorney fees associated with the filing
of this litigation.
The case was filed in federal court in Albuquerque where MRFF is based.

Here's the lawsuit: 
Weinstein provided this statement:
My alma mater promotes and prides itself on instilling only the highest degree of honor, character, truth and integrity into the 4,000 cadets being educated at taxpayer expense to become officers in the United States Air Force. When the senior Air Force leaders at the Academy, starting with the Superintendent, Lt. General Michelle Johnson, who are charged with conducting that costly education, egregiously violate the basic rubrics of the very Federal law which exists to promote and provide open transparency into the sacred trust of their daily fiduciary dealings on behalf of the American people, it is a terribly tragic day indeed. When that violation of Federal law continues over many years, it becomes both scandalous and outrageous. What kind of hideous example is Lt. General Johnson and her staff providing to the Cadet Wing with such clearly illegal actions thwarting the intent and letter of the clear Federal law here?

Due to USAFA’s deliberate malfeasance transpiring over many years now, MRFF has been left with no other alternative but to force and compel USAFA to follow the law of the land in Federal Court.

And what has USAFA done here? The Academy is unlawfully refusing to release critical records on MRFF’s many clients, supporters and allies existing within its walls as well as any records on me and my own children who are recent graduates, as well as my wife. In this regard, let us not forget that the most recent prior Dean of the Faculty, Brigadier General Dana Born, made the waging of a counter-insurgency against MRFF a top written priority to one of her most senior Academy faculty subordinates. Further, one of MRFF’s most visible clients at USAFA, a former member of that same faculty, had his innocent service dog almost poisoned to death on the Academy’s premises. The Federal law requires the Academy to timely release all responsive documents on these and other germane matters to MRFF or, alternatively, to explain on the record the legal justification for not doing so. None of these legal requirements have been remotely satisfied.

Thus, MRFF is now at war with the Air Force Academy in Federal Court to force it to stop its scurrilous illegal actions and to follow the law.
We've asked the academy to comment on the lawsuit and will update if and when we hear back.

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