By Hernandez, Debra Gersh
Editor & Publisher , Vol. 127, No. 41
As E&P went to press, the Department of Justice informed Anderson's attorney that the government will not assert privacy exemptions for information about his terrorist abductors.
It did not rule out other grounds for withholding information, but said discussions would be held with the other agencies to determine whether additional documents can be released.
TERRY ANDERSON HAS been released from his captors. His files have not.
Anderson, a former Associated Press Middle East correspondent who was held as a hostage in Lebanon for almost seven years, now is battling U.S. government agencies for access to files about him, his captors, and administration policy during his confinement.
Anderson has been frustrated by repeated attempts to access documents through Freedom of Information Act requests -- filed between June and August of 1992, as he began work on his book -- and he has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking relief.
Named as defendants in Anderson's complaint are 13 government agencies and departments: the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the Department of the Air Force, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, and the National Security Council.
"I've been following normal procedures for the past two, two-and-a-half years," Anderson said, adding he has received "inadequate or no responses. The next logical step is filing a lawsuit."
The basis of the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is that the defendants "are not in compliance with FoIA. We're asking the judge to make them do it right," Anderson said. According to the complaint, Anderson "has been frustrated in his attempt to gain access to responsive agency records, in many cases receiving cursory denials of requests or portions of requests.
"The agencies have relied on, among other grounds, blanket claims of 'national security' (although no Americans remain hostage in Lebanon) and, incredibly, on the need to protect the privacy of Mr. Anderson's abductors, despite the fact that the Privacy Act does not apply to non-United States citizens," the court papers state.
"Many of the documents 'released' by the agencies are publicly available press releases and news reports providing little illumination about American foreign policy in the Middle East during the late 1980s, the executive branch's activities during the hostage crisis or its response to the rise of Moslem fundamentalism," the lawsuit maintains.
Keeping track of the situation became so burdensome, Anderson appointed the National Security Archive "to coordinate and administer his numerous FoIA requests."
The National Security Archive is a Washington-based, nonprofit research institute.
Further, the complaint notes, "With-holding and redacting the responsive documents not only deprives Mr. …