A federal judge today refused to allow the U.S. Justice Department to put on hold, for more than a year, a suit that seeks information about the FBI's use of technology to collect mobile phone data.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the government failed to convince her that "exceptional circumstances" exist to temporarily stop the litigation. The Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington sued the FBI in April 2012 over access to documents about the bureau's use of "StingRay" technology.
"The large volume of requests that the FBI must process, as well as the size and complexity of those requests and the limited resources available to process them, present exceptional circumstances," Kimberly Herb, a Justice Department lawyer, argued in court papers.
Kollar-Kotelly didn't buy the argument. The bottom line, the judge said, is that the FBI didn't show that the bureau is "deluged" with so many public records request to justify a delay in the court action. Click here for the opinion.
The judge conceded that the number of Freedom of Information Act requests the FBI received in 2012 was higher than during the previous year. However, she added that publicly available data reported to the Justice Department revealed a 25 percent drop in requests between 2008 and 2012.
"Admittedly, the number of requests involving more than 8,000 pages has increased since FY 2007, but today those requests still constitute less than three percent of all pending requests," Kollar-Kotelly said.
Kollar-Kotelly praised the FBI for its effort to reduce its backlog of pending requests for information from the bureau. "[B]ut on this record the court cannot find that these efforts have led to 'reasonable progress' in reducing the agency’s backlog," she said.
The judge set an August deadline for the FBI to produce all responsive, non-exempt records.