The Department of Justice is refusing to release any records related to the murder of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, according to a lawyer who has been investigating the unsolved case.
But that stance by the federal government is an improvement over its previous refusal even to look for records, says the lawyer, Ty Clevenger.
Clevenger wrote on his blog, LawFlog, he received the news Wednesday in a letter from the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.
“Actually, they have refused to release any records about Seth Rich at all, e.g., whether he had a security clearance or a background check.”
But he pointed out the “same office originally refused to even search for records related to Seth Rich, but it was overruled on October 2, 2017, after I appealed to DOJ’s Office of Information Policy.’
Six months later, he said, “they’re still refusing to release anything.”
The letter from the DOJ to Clevenger said: “The records you seek are located in a Privacy Act system of records that, in accordance with regulations promulgated by the attorney general, is exempt from the access provisions of the Privacy Act … We have processed your request under the Freedom of Information Act and are making all records required to be released, or considered appropriate for release as a matter of discretion, available to you.
“The letter is a [X] full denial.”
The letter, which provides a list of options for appeal, was signed by Kevin Krebs, assistant director in the Freedom of Information and Privacy office.
Clevenger pointed out: “I have already filed suit against the FBI and DOJ to force the agencies to release records (DOJ’s answer to the lawsuit is due next Thursday), and I am not particularly surprised by the response thus far. For one thing, the Freedom of Information Act grants broad exemptions for records pertaining to law enforcement and prosecution.”
But he said even those exemptions have limits and “not everything should be protected by FOIA.”
For example, he said he expects to show that the FBI already lied by claiming “it has no records related to Seth Rich.”
“My sources tell me that the FBI assisted D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department in hacking some of Mr. Rich’s electronic devices, yet the FBI has refused to even search for records at its Washington Field Office, where the records would be kept. Why does it matter whether the FBI was involved? Because the FBI usually does not investigate a ‘botched street robbery,’ as DC officials have described the incident.”
WND reported last fall when Clevenger started his hunt for the Rich records.
After his FOIA request for records or correspondence about the murder or its investigation was rejected, the DOJ at that time told the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, D.C., to hunt for records.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office originally put off Clevenger’s FOIA request, demanding he submit a death certificate to prove that Rich was dead.
“Since you have not furnished a release, death certificate, or public justification for release, the release of records concerning a third party would result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and would be in violation of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C.§ 552a,” the office said.
But Clevenger appealed. And Sean R. O’Neil, the chief of administrative appeals at DOJ’s Office of Information Policy, directed the executive office for U.S. attorneys to search for and produce any records covered in Clevenger’s FOIA request.
“You appealed from the action of the Executive Officer for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) on your Freedom of Information Act request for access to records located in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia concerning Seth Conrad Rich,” O’Neil wrote in a letter to Clevenger.
“After carefully considering your appeal, and as a result of discussions between EOUSA personnel and this office, I am remanding your request to EOUSA for a search for responsive records. If EOUSA locates releasable records, it will send them to you directly, subject to applicable fees,” the letter continues.
As WND has reported, Rich, 27, the DNC’s voter expansion data director, had accepted a position with Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign just before his death.
On July 10, 2016, he was fatally shot in the back in Washington, D.C., near his apartment in an affluent neighborhood. Rich had been working for the DNC at a time when emails from the organization were provided to WikiLeaks for publication.
The Metropolitan Police Department and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowers insist Rich was randomly killed during a “botched robbery.” But others are doubtful because he was found with his wallet, credit cards and other valuables.
Clevenger said at the time the effort to hide information about the Rich investigation prompted him to cull information from the government about the mysterious murder.
“I don’t really have a strong opinion about exactly what happened to Rich, but it just seemed there was so much of an effort to conceal information – that alone made me suspicious,” he told WND at the time. “I’m a former reporter, a former cop – deputy sheriff in Texas – and currently a lawyer. Any time somebody hides information, that makes me suspicious.
“I understand in an investigative murder there is evidence that, for strategic reasons, you want to keep under wraps,” he continued. “But in this case, there’s just a lot of questions that could be answered – a coroner’s report, basic information. The rigid official narrative, that it was a robbery and that’s that – no further discussion – that’s suspicious.”
Washington-based lawyer and lobbyist Jack Burkman has organized the Profiling Project, a Washington, D.C.-based team of forensic psychology graduate students and instructors, to find Rich’s killers. In addition, he has launched a nationwide TV campaign pleading for the public’s help in cracking the Rich case.
Burkman, who claimed police insistence on withholding the most basic information pertaining to Rich’s murder is suspicious, also filed a lawsuit against Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department. He is demanding the release of Rich’s medical examiner’s report, autopsy documents and ballistics reports, which are typically made public during murder investigations.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has hinted that Rich, and not Russian agents, may have been the source of the Democratic National Committee emails he published online.