The MFIA Clinic represents the New York Times and legal historians Lee Levine and Stephen Wermeil in a FOIA action to understand the extent to which the FBI targeted the New York Times and its reporters as part of its now-discredited COINTELPRO program in the 1960s and 1970s. That program sought to infiltrate various organizations, including the Black Panther Party. It is common knowledge that the FBI targeted one Times reporter, Earl Caldwell, to induce him to inform on the Panthers; Caldwell’s refusal to give up his source led to the landmark Supreme Court decision of Branzburg v. Hayes. The request at issue seeks to understand the extent of the FBI’s practices targeting the Times and its reporters.
The Clinic filed suit after the FBI denied the request for not properly describing the records, and the Department of Justice did not respond to MFIA’s administrative appeal. The FBI is in the process of producing records responsive to the request.