Just as the US government was about to hand over the Secret Service documents it has on the late activist Aaron Swartz, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a motion to intervene in the FOIA lawsuit of Wired’s Kevin Poulsen.Poulsen says the government informed his lawyer that the first batch of documents would be released on Friday. However, the judge suspended the order given to the US government to give her time to review MIT’s motion.
“Based upon an off-the-record conference call with the parties’ counsel and counsel for non-party Massachusetts Institute of Technology (‘MIT’), the Court understands that MIT intends to file a motion to intervene later today, which will include a request for relief relating to the Government’s production of certain documents to Plaintiff,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly noted.
“In view of the impending motion, the Court hereby STAYS the obligation of the Government to promptly release to Plaintiff all responsive documents that it has located on a rolling basis.”
MIT fears that the Aaron Swartz Secret Service documents contain the names of MIT community members who helped US authorities with their investigation against the Reddit co-founder.
“MIT has reason to believe that encompassed within the records sought by the Plaintiff’s is information that, if released in unredacted form, could jeopardize the safety of MIT community and make its network more vulnerable to cyberattacks,” MIT argued.
“The information is protected under FOIA, the Privacy Act and the Trade Secrets Act. Accordingly, while MIT does not oppose DHS’s disclosure to Plaintiff of all responsive records, Plaintiff is not entitled to an order requiring DHS to make such protected information available to Plaintiff.”
Both Poulsen and his lawyer, David Sobel – who is a top FOIA litigator –, say they’ve never heard of cases in which a non-governmental party interferes in a FOIA release of government documents.