The CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request.
A lawsuit was filed yesterday against the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for failure to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records pertaining to Russian interference with the recent U.S. presidential election.
Jason Leopold, an investigative reporter who frequently writes for Vice, and Ryan Shapiro, a PhD candidate at MIT and research affiliate at Harvard who is known for his activism around the release of government records, filed the lawsuit after never receiving word as to whether or not their petition for expedited processing of their information request would be granted.
Specifically, the FOIA requests seek information Congress may have received to or from federal intellegence agencies that reference terms like CrowdStrike, Fancy Bear, Guccifer 2.0, related IP addresses and other terms that surfaced in relation to the hacking of campaign-related systems in the run-up to the campaign. Leopold and Shapiro are also requesting communications between FBI director James Comey and the White House about publically accusing Russia of interfering with the election.
According to the Department of Justice, agencies are required to notify the party who issued the information request within 10 days of receiving a letter asking for expedited processing. Leopold and Shapiro first sent their FOIA request to the FBI, DHS, CIA and the ODNI on Dec. 14 and a second request to the CIA on Dec. 15.
The CIA is now extremely confident that Russia interfered in the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election in order to bolster Trump’s chance of securing the presidency, according to a report earlier this month in the Washington Post.
In October, seventeen U.S. federal intellegence agencies publically concluded the breach of Democratic National Committee and the email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, was the work of hackers working for Russia.
The plaintiffs seek information about any ongoing investigation into ties between Donald Trump or anyone associated with his campaign and interference from the Russian government in the election. Leopold and Shapiro also asked for communications between Congress and the Republican and Democratic campaign committees, as well as Hillary Clinton’s campaign in reference to Russian involvement with the 2016 presidential race.
WIth Trump’s inauguration only weeks away, there’s a rush to understand how the results of the narrowly won presidential election were affected by interference from Russia. The Russian hacking of the 2016 election marks the first time a foreign power has tried to sway an American election and undermine the democratic voting process with this level of technical sophistication.
President Obama, who earlier this month vowed to retaliate against Russia for its tampering with the U.S. election, is now working with his administration to apply an executive order passed last year that permits the U.S. to issue sanctions on overseas individuals that attack computer systems related to critical infrastructure, like transportation systems or a power grid, or seek to gain a competitive advantage through commercial espionage by hacking online systems, according to the Washington Post.
But U.S. electoral systems are not currently considered critical infrastructure protected under the Department of Homeland Security.
The fact that the electoral systems are not protected as critical infrastructure led to a race before the election to secure electronic voting machines and voter registration databases nationwide. Before Election Day, state voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona were found to be hacked.
Leopold and Shapiro are paying for their lawsuit with a crowdfunding campaign called Operation 45 that has collected over $30,000 in the past thirty days.