The FOIA Request: What You Need To Know About Digging Deep Into the Deep State


Jay Sekulow


August 29, 2017

Can the Deep State be defeated? That’s the persistent question I get on a daily basis. The answer is yes, and here’s how.

Over the past several decades, the federal government has become a big, intimidating, and sometimes scary behemoth to the America people. As a result, American citizens have become more and more distrusting of their elected representatives, political appointees, and civil servants. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, only 20% of Americans trust the federal government to do what is right all or most of the time.

As the ACLJ’s Government Accountability Project continues to dig deeper into the Deep State through our series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, these requests continue to reveal solid evidence that Americans’ depth of distrust in their federal government is based upon concrete concerns.

The FOIA, which became law in 1966, “is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.” Currently, the ACLJ has seven federal FOIA lawsuits against various United States government bureaucracies.

As we litigate these cases, I often field questions like: “What good does it do?” “What can you accomplish through the production of these documents?” “Why does it take so long to get anywhere with these cases?” “Why aren’t people going to jail?”

With long interludes between requests and document production, as well as the content – or lack thereof (i.e., countless redactions) – it is no wonder that Americans grow more weary and cynical with our corrupt and negligent government that often runs roughshod over the very people who it is commissioned to serve.

At the ACLJ, we are working very hard to aggressively hold the government’s feet to the fire through our FOIA requests. Through our team’s persistence, we are getting some serious document production, which shows the nature of what we are dealing with – a corrupt shadow government intent on crushing the conservative agenda.

Let me be crystal clear. It’s litigation, and litigation takes time, but the end result is that you get real change. Here are a few examples of how our FOIA’s are forcing real change: 

  • We ask the questions few are asking, and then actually do something about it. Through these requests, we are seeking records to gather information about certain particular matters and cases. For example, as Thann Bennett, our Director of Government Affairs, stated, “If James Comey said that this meeting on the tarmac was so significant that he had to intervene, where is the memo on that? Because he had already told us that when meetings concerned him at this level, he wrote a memo about it. I want that memo.”
  • We operate as a watchdog of the powerful, out-of-control bureaucratic agencies. For example, our FOIA to the NSA is focused on the Obama Administration’s last-minute rule change that allowed the sharing of signal intelligence to expand from three federal agencies to sixteen, which in turn has led to massive national security leaks.
  • We hold the bloated federal government bureaucracy accountable in order to get rid of nefarious government employees. In the $1.5 billion Obama-era cash-deal with Iran, we filed a FOIA to evidence that the Obama Administration intentionally manipulated the public video record of a press briefing – deleting a portion in which it admitted lying to the American people about the Iran nuclear negotiations. We’ve already unearthed an internal government memo detailing “evidence of purposeful editing” – a document the Deep State never wanted to see the light of day. At the end of the day, we keep pressing our case because we want to know, “Are these people still in the State Department?”

The FBI has now reopened our FOIA case regarding the Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting, after they previously denied they had any documents relevant to it. Without our FOIA litigation, the FBI’s deception and complicity with the Obama DOJ over the surreptitious meeting would never have come to light.

The only reason they reopened the case is because we caught them red-handed – lying to us and the American people. In fact, the same person who reopened the case is the same person who closed the case a year ago. In many cases, these federal bureaucrats are just never caught. They aren’t held accountable because no one knows who they are or what nefarious actions they are taking. They remain in the bureaucracy as an entrenched, lawless class. They must be removed from their positions of power. In other words, the ultimate accountability comes in the form of personnel changes when these matters come to light.

  • We expose government corruption, negligence, and conflicts of interest. It took three years to litigate, but we had a big win against the IRS in the Tea Party targeting scandal. No, Lois Lerner has not been prosecuted and put in jail, but she’s also not head of the tax-exempt division of the IRS anymore. In fact, dozens and dozens of targeted conservative groups have now had their tax-exempt status approved – groups that without our litigation would have continued to wallow in the bureaucratic IRS quagmire. Because of our oversight, the IRS of 2017 is not the same IRS as it was in 2012. Because of the litigation we engaged in, it’s a completely different agency.

We have also had a victory in our FOIA case against the State Department and its sending of American taxpayer funds in the form of grants to be used to campaign against the Prime Minister of Israel. Talk about election interference. This is the second case in which a federal judge has allowed our pattern and practice claim against the State Department to go forward. In other words, the State Department did not turn over FOIA requested documents because they wanted to, but because they had to. Just like we contributed to change at the IRS, we seek to contribute the same level of change through our legal action to the State Department. 

  • We serve as a conduit between supporters of the ACLJ and their government officials as we hand over factual evidence of corruption to the appropriate government officials to handle each particular matter.

Remember, the ACLJ is not the government, so we cannot prosecute state actors. Prosecutions have to originate within the Department of Justice. But we can support a more informed citizenry and act on the behalf of our supporters through legal means. We can and do force change through the courts.

As I have said before, an informed citizenry is an enlightened citizenry. Our approach at the ACLJ is to educate, litigate, and get information out – and what we’re trying to do here is find out what is actually going on inside of these agencies because that is the fundamental issue – government oversight.

You cannot rely upon Congress or even the Inspectors General to investigate and root out this corruption on their own. But we can expose the corruption and hand over the evidence to the appropriate investigative committees here on Capitol Hill. Yes, it can be a painstaking process, but one that is wholly worthwhile and essential to engage the process of getting rid of these Deep State actors who are causing the trouble, and in some cases, placing our national security at risk.