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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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University still refuses to give documents to FBI

The federal government continues to be denied access to documents it believes contain classified information that are being held by the University.

In May, the Hatchet reported that two FBI agents visited the home of Mark Feldstein, an associate professor of Media and Public Affairs, asking that the University grant them access to a collection of documents belonging to the family of the late famed investigative journalist Jack Anderson.

According to Feldstein, the agents said the documents may contain classified government information. The documents the FBI requested were in connection to a case involving two Israelis accused of espionage.

As per the request of the Anderson family, who own the collection, Feldstein and the University refused to grant the FBI access to the papers, which are stored in 187 boxes at an undisclosed location on campus.

“I am hoping that all of the criticism has caused the FBI to back off and realize that the benefit is less than the cost for doing this,” Feldstein said.

According to Matt Lindsay, assistant director of Media Relations, the FBI last spoke with GW in the spring when representatives from the University’s Office of General Counsel and the Anderson family were both present.

Debbie Wireman, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Washington field office, told the Hatchet that the Department of Justice is handling this case. The Justice Department did not return a phone call for comment.

In June, Feldstein spoke at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing called in response to the controversy surrounding the FBI’s attempt to seize the Anderson files.

The hearing, titled “Examining the Department of Justice’s Investigation of Journalists Who Publish Classified Information: Lessons from the Jack Anderson Case,” focused on the importance of anonymous whistleblowers and criticized a growing trend of over-classification by the federal government.

“By itself, what happened with the Anderson papers is a small and I think extreme case,” Feldstein said at the hearing. “But it is troubling because it appears to be part of a larger effort by the government to crack down on the media and the public’s right to know.”

Now, even months later, the University remains committed to carrying out the Anderson family’s wishes of not allowing the federal government to go through the papers. In May 2006, the Gelman Library Web site announced plans to catalog the papers for public use, but first they must raise the appropriate funds to do so.

Before the papers are made available for public use, however, the University and the library must ensure the names of Jack Anderson’s anonymous sources are in fact kept confidential, according to the Gelman Web site.

Lindsay said there is not yet a timeline for when the records will be available for public viewing.

“As custodian of the papers of the late Jack Anderson . GW seeks to uphold its responsibility to protect the integrity of this collection,” said Director of Media Relations Tracy Schario.

GW has proved the commitment when in 1995 the University began renting space in Gelman to the National Security Archive, an organization which utilizes the Freedom of Information Act to obtain and declassify important government documents.

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