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Star News Network Sues FBI For Refusing to Release Covenant School Shooter's Manifesto

'It has been long enough, and the public has an urgent right to know why this tragedy happened,' the lawsuit states

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is being sued by The Star News Network after repeatedly denying Freedom of Information Act Requests regarding the manifesto created by Audrey Hale.

Hale killed three nine-year-old students and three adults at The Covenant School in Nashville on March 27 before being shot by police. 

The 28-year-old was born female but identified as transgender. Police confirmed on the day of the shooting that she wrote a manifesto detailing her motives. The FBI has said it will release the manifesto once its agents have finished reviewing the document. 

According to the lawsuit filed by Star News Network on May 9, the news company argues the “FBI has no right to retain a monopoly on this information.”

“It has been long enough, and the public has an urgent right to know why this tragedy happened, how future events may be prevented, and what policies should be in place to address this and other similar tragedies,” the lawsuit states.

The FBI denied a FOIA request filed on April 20 because releasing the documents “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.” The FBI denied a second request from the company on April 25.

The plaintiffs argue:

Hale is dead and no threat remains to the public related to the events of March 27. There is no criminal prosecution, investigation, or anything resembling an “enforcement proceeding.” FBI is apparently attempting to interpret the manifesto, but at this point, interpreting or reviewing the manifesto is an academic exercise and certainly not an enforcement proceeding. In short, there is simply no reason why FBI cannot release the manifesto. In fact, in the most recent mass shootings involving FBI, manifestos were released to the press sometimes within hours of the attack.

Star News Network is being represented by Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. 

The federal government does not get to pick and choose whether they release information that lawfully belongs to the public,” said Lucas Vebber, the Deputy Counsel for WILL, in a May 10 statement. “Our efforts are critical to holding our federal government accountable and promoting transparency.”

WILL filed an administrative appeal with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy at the end of April, which was denied on May 5. 

According to the Tennessee Star, the Metro Nashville Police Department also has possession of the manifesto but “backtracked” after telling the media the records were being prepared for public release. The Tennessee Star is part of the Star News Network, which is operated by Star News Digital Media. 

Judicial Watch filed a public records lawsuit on May 1 against the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, requesting all records related to the investigation of Hale and the shooting. Judicial Watch noted that plaintiffs James Hammond and the Tennesse Firearms Association had submitted “a total of three public records requests under the Tennessee Public Records Act” and that the records had been withheld. 

“Tennessee authorities have cited no credible reason for hiding the killer’s ‘manifesto’ about this deadly school shooting of three young children and three school employees,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a press release. “Politics shouldn’t trump transparency and the public safety. The public has an urgent right to know the details of this manifesto. That a public records lawsuit is required to try to access this key document is a scandal.”  

Star News Network’s lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee.

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