The New York Times by David McCraw
Septemeber 2, 2019
In an effort to shed more light on how we work, The Times is running a series of short posts explaining some of our journalistic practices. Read more from this series here.
The anonymous note was secretly tucked into an envelope, behind an official letter from a government agency denying our reporter’s request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
It apparently came from someone deep in the agency’s FOIA bureaucracy. The request sought government documents related to the president’s business interests. Typed in large-font print on plain paper, the inserted note said: “The processing of the request was highly irregular. The withholding was entirely unjustified … The document was probably withheld for political reasons.”
I had never seen such a whistle-blower note before, but it brought into sharp focus what we face every day in The New York Times’s legal department as we continue to push against government secrecy through the use of FOIA. Whether it is helping our reporters as they go after documents in Washington and the Virgin Islands related to Jeffrey Epstein, or suing the C.I.A. over its refusal to release information about the United States’ war efforts in Syria, we have made FOIA a centerpiece of our legal work at The Times.