The Department of Justice might just want to revive its practice of monitoring the communications of Associated Press journalists after today. On Wednesday morning, the AP filed a lawsuit against the State Department for failing to provide access to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s electronic communications records and related emails under the Freedom of Information Act.
The international news organization filed suit Wednesday morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The legal action comes after repeated requests filed under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act have gone unfulfilled. They include one request AP made five years ago and others pending since the summer of 2013.
The requests target materials related to the potential presidential candidate’s public and private calendars, correspondence involving longtime aides, and Clinton-related emails about the Osama bin Laden raid and National Security Agency surveillance practices.
“After careful deliberation and exhausting our other options, the Associated Press is taking the necessary legal steps to gain access to these important documents, which will shed light on actions by the State Department and former Secretary Clinton, a presumptive 2016 presidential candidate, during some of the most significant issues of our time,” said the AP’s general counsel in a statement provided to The Hill.
The AP joins the group Veterans for a Strong America which also plans to sue the State Department on the grounds that the agency has stalled in responding to FOIA requests regarding communications involving State’s handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks.
The problem State might encounter while complying with this suit is the increasing likelihood that the communications records they are trying to access simply do not exist. The revelation disclosed yesterday that Clinton had destroyed or refused to disclose no fewer than 31,000 emails suggests that there are going to be significant gaps in the electronic communications records from Clinton that State can provide.
Regardless of the good governance problem associated with the State Department’s likely inability to furnish the AP and others with the communications records they have requested, there is also the matter of the political liability Clinton will never be fully able to address. Clinton is never going to be able to fully satisfy her critics. What’s more, Clinton is not going to surrender the hardware that comprised her “homebrew” server voluntarily. In fact, her primary strategy is to stonewall, obfuscate, and dissemble in the hopes that this scandal eventually loses its sting.
But this matter is never going away, as evidenced by the inauguration of a variety of lawsuits aimed at compelling Foggy Bottom to abide by the law. At best, this matter will become background radiation that permeates the whole of the 2016 presidential race. But that should be little comfort to Democratic partisans. Even background radiation can give you cancer.