I am Josh Burday, one of the lawyers suing the federal government to force the release of the rest of the Mueller Report. The case was referenced here yesterday:

I do this type of work full-time and previously sued the FCC forcing it to release a bevy of records related to the infamous repeal of Net Neutrality.

I am also currently suing the Department of Defense for records related to NSA's failure to prevent 9/11 despite the fact that we now know it could have. While this case is ongoing, we have already forced the release of previously classified records confirming everything the whistleblowers (former top ranking NSA officials) alleged. There is a documentary on Netflix and YouTube about it: "A Good American."

I am litigating this case with my colleague Matt Topic and the rest of the Transparency Team at Loevy & Loevy. Matt is best known for being the lead attorney in the Laquan McDonald shooting video case as well as this case. We have also forced the release of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “private” emails and countless more police shooting videos in Illinois.

While there are a small number of other attorneys who do this type of work, almost all of them work in-house for organizations. As far as I am aware we are the only team in the country doing this work at a private firm full-time and representing both major media organizations and regular people. We are able to represent regular people at no charge because under the Freedom of Information Act when we win a case the government has to pay all of our attorneys' fees and costs.

My Proof: https://twitter.com/joshburday

You can reach me at: [email protected]

Check out Matt and countless of his other accomplishments as well: https://loevy.com/attorneys/matthew-v-topic/

I will begin answering questions at 1:00 p.m. Central Time.

Edit: Thank you all, signing off now. You can also find Matt Topic on twitter: https://twitter.com/mvtopic

Comments: 1446 • Responses: 11  • Date: 

JudgeArthurVandelay1298 karma

How likely is it that I will ever, in my entire lifetime, get to read the unredacted Mueller Report? Or at least 95% unredacted

Transparency_Attys1279 karma

The Mueller Report is currently available and can be found online. The problem is that there are many redactions in the report that are not appropriate. That is what we are litigating in court and what the judge decided to look at. The judge is going to review the completely unredacted report in camera (meaning “in private”) and determine if the government must release more of what was withheld. The opinion contained some scathing language for various government actors including AG Barr himself. It’s definitely worth a read.

I am hopeful and optimistic that we will get a decision from the judge relatively quickly by legal standards. We could potentially get the judge’s decision in the next few months, which would be well in advance of the election. If more of the redacted information is released, the public could get a chance to see it before casting their votes.

thrww3534331 karma

1) Do you have any suspicions / expectations of what is hiding under those redactions?

2) Is there somewhere I can read more about the NSA / 9-11 suit? I wonder who had standing to sue? And are you suing for equitable relief (which I understand to mean to make the government do something), for money damages, or for both?

3) Any thoughts on the Epstein murder?

Transparency_Attys379 karma

1) For some of the redacted parts it is impossible to say what is being withheld. In other areas some general inferences can be made, some of which we laid out in our publicly available briefing. For example, we stated in our brief that “DOJ has indiscriminately redacted nearly everything about [Roger] Stone.” The redactions also would likely shed light on why “Donald Trump, Jr. was never even brought before the grand jury.” I hope to see much of the redacted material released.

2) The documentary "A Good American" is the whistleblowers themselves telling the story of what happened. The article linked in the post is probably the best piece to read for a better understanding. https://www.justsecurity.org/47632/hayden-nsa-road-911/ The author of the piece, Pat Eddington from CATO Institute, is our client in the lawsuit against the Department of Defense. Under FOIA, any regular person may request records from government agencies. If the agency refuses to produce the requested records in violation of the law we can step in and file suit. In this case we are suing to force the release of records, namely the Pentagon’s internal investigative report of the debacle.

The short version of the story is that Bill Binney created a program, ThinThread, that would have detected the 9/11 attacks before they occurred. Binney was not as popular as other people at NSA though so instead of using his program the NSA went with another program, Trailblazer. Trailblazer was a massive failure costing the American taxpayers untold millions of dollars. And it obviously did not help the NSA prevent the 9/11 attacks.

3) While I am not well acquainted with the facts of the case, the reporting I have seen makes me extremely skeptical that Epstein killed himself. This was an instance where our legal system did not inspire as much confidence as I would have liked.

Queltry181 karma

I'm also an attorney, from the other side (generally speaking, not doj). Normally, FOIA isn't my thing, but I've dabbled in it(multiple years ago), as the workloads of the foia lawyers became completely overwhelming at a past job. Nothing of great importance, since I was just backup.

But there's a clear problem with foia right now. Its broken, for several reasons. A couple of well known advocacy groups use it to clog up agency operations with literal mountains of requests for everything and the kitchen sink, and then promptly disappear and switch out for other advocacy groups when the administration changes. On top of that, genuine oversight groups seek quite a bit of information as well, though for you know, actual oversight reasons. As a taxpayer, I want this openness to continue. But these two buckets of requestors, plus legions of individual requestors have created an enormous backlog, where you basically have to sue just to get timely documents, because the backlog of requests is so high, that only a court order can prioritize a request. This puts lower-resource requesters at a disadvantage because they can't pay for a federal court case.

Moreover, the time lines for requests were set decades ago, before volumes of emails and files were kept. Now request for emails on a specific issue could be hundreds of thousands of pages

The burden to meet timelines is effectively impossible at current levels of staffing, and it's common knowledge that foia is a thankless assignment in the federal government that few last in. I routinely see foia positions go unfilled for months on USAjobs.

The system is broken. I don't want to end foia, because it's a critical part of government oversight. But it seems no one is happy with it works now. If you could change the legislation, how would you, to improve the flow of information or fix other issues?

Are there any non-legislative fixes, or practices that the government could realistically adopt to improve things in your view?

I'm thrilled to be out of the FOIA world, but its one of those government administration topics that's fascinating to keep up on in an academic sense.

Transparency_Attys126 karma

Here is an answer from Matt Topic, which I wholeheartedly agree with:
"The government needs to devote more resources to compliance and stop withholding records unless there is a clear and present danger of substantial harm from releasing records. Instead, many federal agencies are spending end of year budget money on new office furniture."

carrilhas165 karma

In a case where you're representing a single person and you lose the case, what happens to your honoraries?

Also, could the unredacted Mueller report change anything, in your opinion, of what was the public 'misunderstanding' of the whole process?

Transparency_Attys210 karma

If we lose a case then the government does not have to pay our attorneys’ fees or costs. Unfortunately, that is just a risk we take each time we file a case. While that is certainly a powerful downside, we are thankful that the law allows us to represent regular people and even organizations that could not otherwise afford to hire attorneys. Even relatively large and powerful media organizations could not always pay attorneys to file cases like this if they had to. Money obviously matters, but if our main goal was to make money we would not work in this field of law. We care tremendously about holding our government accountable and holding it up to the sunshine of public scrutiny.

Release of the redacted parts of the Mueller Report could absolutely change the public’s understanding of what occurred. It is impossible to say how exactly the public’s understanding will change though because we don’t know what the withheld parts of the report say either!

expresidentmasks93 karma

In your opinion, can we trust our intelligence agencies?

Transparency_Attys123 karma

That is a difficult question to answer in the abstract. In some instances yes we can trust our intelligence agencies and in others no. We should never take anything for granted though and we should always scrutinize the actions of intelligence agencies and our entire government. People regularly submit FOIA requests for information to the FBI in an effort to do exactly that. However, the FBI does not have a good track record of compliance with FOIA, which is profoundly troubling to say the least. We have filed suits against the FBI as well.

garrettw61 karma

Thanks for doing this Josh. Do you think it's likely that the DoJ will find a way to refuse to comply? If so, any thoughts on how they might?

Transparency_Attys70 karma

The judge has unequivocally ordered them to turn the report over for an in camera ("in private") review. I would be very surprised if they disobeyed the judge's order. If the judge orders more of the report released they will have the option to appeal the decision.

cchriztian44 karma

Which resources, methods of research, or general habits have been the most useful toward your career up to this point? Coming from a third-year law student.

Transparency_Attys79 karma

Unsurprisingly, Westlaw is one of the primary research tools I rely on. Do not underestimate the power of doing regular internet and Google searches either. I have turned up surprising amounts of relevant information that way. Also, clients themselves can be valuable resources. Just because they do not have legal expertise does not mean they do not have valuable information and insight to offer depending on the subject matter.

hiimdevin77 karma

What’s been your scariest moment when challenging the federal government?

Transparency_Attys11 karma

The scary moments are when judges hand down their decisions and the fate of a case you worked on for years hangs in the balance.

bundleton5 karma

Can you give some background on how cases like these get off the ground? Did Buzzfeed approach you and ask for representation, or did you seek them out as a media party that demonstrates direct injury in order to have standing in the case? Does your team look for specific cases you know you can win and try to put them together? Thanks for doing what you do!

Transparency_Attys11 karma

Typically, things begin with a person who made a FOIA request and had their request for records denied in whole or in part. At that point they reach out to us and see if we can help them get the records. Sometimes there can be a legitimate basis to deny a request for records (the government would not have to turn over the nuclear codes for example), but if not then we can file suit on their behalf. We litigate cases across the country including in D.C., Illinois, California and Florida.

Torque-A3 karma

What can we do to help make sure justice is served here?

Transparency_Attys9 karma

We see questions along these lines quite a bit. I briefly answered one elsewhere in this post, but let me copy/paste an apt answer that Matt and I have given in the past:

A lot of times people don’t try because they don’t think they have any chance of changing things. One of the biggest lessons from the Laquan McDonald FOIA case we handled (for an independent freelance journalist) is that just showing people the truth can actually lead to change. Thousands of people came out to protest and forced the City of Chicago to make changes to police accountability, so people should remember they usually aren’t alone in wanting to hold their government accountable. There is still so much work to be done on that, but the public demand hasn’t let up. So people should find that encouraging and should fight for their right to information. We’re always happy to help with that!

er-day1 karma

How can we support the work that you’re doing? Ps keep fighting the good fight, there aren’t enough of you out there.

Transparency_Attys2 karma

Staying informed and paying attention to current events is a great way to help. You can also file FOIA requests for records yourself. We should not allow our government to operate in secret.