Navy Times, with a major assist from the Yale FOI Law Clinic, for the win!

Yale’s newish FOI clinic already is demonstrating the potential for such collaborations to make a real difference in FOI litigation:

Navy Times has won an important ruling in its legal challenge to force U.S. Strategic Command to release investigative reports into an allegedly abusive Navy official.

In 2011, William H. McMichael, then a Navy Times staff writer, asked STRATCOM to release an Inspector General report detailing the conduct of Capt. Bill Power, the command’s then-director of logistics, who had been accused of abusive behavior by subordinates.

But each of three Freedom of Information Act requests was denied by STRATCOM officials, who refused to confirm or deny the existence of the records under an exemption to the federal Freedom of Information Act normally applied to state secrets.

Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic took up the fight on Navy Times’ behalf, challenging the Navy’s determination in the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia.

The Yale group argued that the Pentagon’s refusal to acknowledge whether the report existed was a misuse of the cited exemption. They argued the IG report into a senior official’s conduct should be a matter of public record, noting that STRATCOM employees knew of the probe and that Power had even told some of his 49 employees about the report’s conclusions.

The judge sided with Navy Times.

 

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