From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
August 22, 2006
Federal Court to FBI: Learn To Use Google
The D.C. Circuit today criticized the FBI for failing to use Google in
response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which requires
government agencies to release information unless “reasonable efforts”
show that the information is not available to the public.
The case involved a request for 35 year-old tapes recorded during a
Lousiana mob investigation. The FBI claimed that they could refuse to
release the tapes under an exception to FOIA which allows information
to be withheld when it could “reasonably be expected to constitute an
unwarranted invasion of personal property.” According to the FBI,
release of the tapes would invade the privacy of the persons taped.
As the court explained, a person’s interest in their own privacy is
“diminished where the individual is deceased,” and thus the FBI’s right
to refuse disclosure of the tapes hinged upon whether or not they made
reasonable efforts to determine if the people on the tape were dead.
The court found the FBI’s efforts lacking:
Why, in short, doesn’t the FBI just Google the two names? Surely, in
the Internet age, a “reasonable alternative” for finding out
whether a prominent person is dead is to use Google (or any other
search engine) to find a report of that person’s death. Moreover,
while finding a death notice for the second speaker — the informant —
may be harder (assuming that he was not prominent), Googling also
provides ready access to hundreds of websites collecting obituaries
from all over the country, any one of which might resolve that
speaker’s status as well.
As Howard Bashman notes there’s no word yet on whether the FBI has to
Written By:m On August 22, 2006 11:51 AM
I sure hope Osama doesn’t have a webpage, because then we’ll never find
Written By:bloppo On August 22, 2006 03:18 PM
The federal government is a greater threat to the common American’s
freedoms than all the terrorists across the world.
Know your true enemy and be prepared.
The Founders, in their writings, told us what must be done.
“The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) is one of
the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations. Founded in
2001, ACS is comprised of law students, lawyers, scholars, judges,
policymakers, activists and other concerned individuals who are working
to ensure that the fundamental principles of human dignity, individual
rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice are in
their rightful, central place in American law.”
The D.C. Circuit orders the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use
Google to determine whether the speakers on an audiotape whose
production an author seeks under the Freedom of Information Act are
dead or alive.
On page 17 of today’s opinion, Circuit Judge Merrick B. Garland writes
for a unanimous three-judge panel:
“But if that is so, one has to ask why — in the age of the Internet —
the FBI restricts itself to a dead-tree source with a considerable time
lag between death and publication, with limited utility for the FBI’s
purpose, and with entries restricted to a small fraction of even the
“prominent and noteworthy”? Why, in short, doesn’t the FBI just Google
the two names? Surely, in the Internet age, a “reasonable alternative”
for finding out whether a prominent person is dead is to use Google (or
any other search engine) to find a report of that person’s death.
Moreover, while finding a death notice for the second speaker — the
informant — may be harder (assuming that he was not prominent),
Googling also provides ready access to hundreds of websites collecting
obituaries from all over the country, any one of which might resolve
that speaker’s status as well. See, e.g., http://www.legacy.com
(hosting the obituary sites of more than 275 newspapers, including
three Louisiana papers); http://www.obituarycentral.com (containing a
directory of links to online obituaries and death notices in every
Notably, however, today’s opinion does not require the FBI to use
Wikipedia to determine whether the speakers on the tape are dead or
Posted at 10:23 AM by Howard Bashman
Garland, Merrick B.
Born 1952 in Chicago, IL
Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit
Nominated by William J. Clinton on January 7, 1997, to a seat vacated
by Abner Joseph Mikva; Confirmed by the Senate on March 19, 1997, and
received commission on March 20, 1997.
Harvard College, A.B., 1974
Harvard Law School, J.D., 1977
Law clerk, Hon. Harry J. Friendly, U.S. Court of Appeals, Second
Law clerk, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Supreme Court of the United
Special assistant U.S. attorney general, 1979-1981
Private practice, Washington, DC, 1981-1989
Assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, 1989-1992
Private practice, Washington, DC, 1992-1993
Deputy assistant U.S.attorney general, U.S. Department of Justice,
Criminal Division, 1993-1994
Principal associate deputy U.S. attorney general, 1994-1997
Race or Ethnicity: White