Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH
The National Association of Biomedical Research has released its “A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY14” report which documents animal rights efforts to gather intelligence about organizations, companies and institutions it targets for “lawfare.” Often biomedical research facilities are the target of these malicious efforts.
“FOIA” is the Freedom of Information Act, which provides the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as “the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.” Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA, unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.
“Lawfare” is the illegitimate use of laws with the intention of financially harming an ideological adversary, creating a public relations victory against an adversary, or wasting the adversary’s time in responding, so that their mission and purposes are not pursued or are pursued less successfully. The objective is not necessarily to win in court, but to use the legal process as punishment for pursuing lawful aims that the antagonist disagrees with on ideological grounds.
From the 2014 Report we learn that there were 215 instances of FOIA requests by animal rights organizations or individuals associated with them, and that more than 40% targeted biomedical research institutions.
As paraphrased from the report:
“Activists use FOIA to acquire information to facilitate their investigations, to make criminal complaints for allegations of animal cruelty and to ask for enforcement actions for alleged instances of regulatory noncompliance. A notable change in 2014 was the submission of single FOIA requests targeting multiple institutions. This change makes the number of requests appear little changed when in fact they have increased dramatically. This also serves to better hide the targeting of specific institutions from among a group of as many as 25 other named institutions.”
In addition to the intentional misuse of FOIA laws by activists, the costs incurred by the Federal government to provide this information continues to increase. In FY 2014 direct FOIA expenses approached $462 million. At APHIS and NIH, 44 full-time FOIA staff are employed at a cost exceeding $5 million. These funds are unavailable for fulfillment of the primary mission of the agencies and institutions affected.
Read the entire report here: http://www.nabr.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/FY2014-FOIA-Report.pdf