Washington, DC – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today sent three Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for documents surrounding recent instances where federal agencies have decided to censor language dealing with Islamic terrorism in order to keep full information from the public.

CoA Institute President and CEO, and former federal judge, Alfred J. Lechner, Jr.: “Political censorship not only chills public access to information, but also undermines public safety. The proposed DHS policy on censorship is counterintuitive and dangerous. The American public has the right to know who is engineering this censorship.”

Orlando shooter 911 transcript redactions:

CoA Institute sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI seeking information on the redaction of the transcripts of a 911 telephone call made by Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, during his horrific rampage. The FBI has not explained when, if ever, it will release the entirety of the transcripts.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch indicated that the Obama administration withheld portions of the transcript linking the killings in Orlando to the Islamic State “to avoid re-victimizing those people that went through this horror,” but failed to provide any explanation as to how releasing information already public knowledge would “re-victimize” survivors.

After broad criticism, the DOJ reversed course and released a partial transcript without redactions. Yet the DOJ is still attempting to obscure the record by withholding critical information. The full transcript has not been released and, while the White House states that the DOJ ordered the redactions, the agency has refused to identify the individuals responsible. The FOIA request by CoA Institute seeks to better understand agency decision-making on this this matter, as well as the release of the full, un-redacted transcript.

Islamic terrorism terminology:

CoA Institute also is investigating a decision by the Obama administration to redact and purge the use of certain terms relating to Islamic terrorism in law enforcement and counterterrorism training materials and in presentations to the public and the media.

Following the June 12, 2016 mass murder of American citizens in Orlando, CIA Director John Brennan testified in an open session of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the status of the United States fight against the Islamic State (ISIL), explaining that “despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.”

Unfortunately, Director Brennan left unaddressed the significant handicap that he and others in the Obama administration have placed on law enforcement and counterterrorism personnel by censoring and eliminating references to the underlying religious motivations of Islamic terrorists. Starting in 2011, Brennan led an aggressive campaign to purge any critical references to, or even mention of, Islamic ideology, beliefs, and cultural terms from intelligence and law enforcement training materials. In addition, a recent report from the Homeland Security Advisory Council recommends that law enforcement involved in fighting violent extremism “[r]eject religiously-charged terminology and problematic positioning by using plain meaning American English.”  The report specifically calls for eliminating the use of terms such as ‘jihad,’ ‘sharia,’ ‘takfir’ and ‘umma.’

The use of specific, accurate, and even technical terminology in law enforcement is integral to effective counter-terrorism operations and training. CoA Institute accordingly has sent FOIA requests to both the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security seeking information on the Administration’s policies relating to Islamic terrorism terminology.

The full FOIA request for details of the Orlando killer’s 911 call is available HERE
The full FOIA request to CIA is available HERE
The full FOIA request to DHS is available HERE