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CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY SUES FBI FOR HIDDEN FILES

 CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY SUES FBI FOR HIDDEN FILES
 WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Charging the FBI with


"erecting procedural obstacles that foster delay" in the FBI's response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the Church of Scientology International has filed suit against the agency in federal court to force disclosure of records it initially requested from the FBI nearly a year ago.
 The Church's FOIA request was aimed at gaining access to records maintained on the Church by the FBI field office in Tampa, Fla.; records the FBI has acknowledged do exist. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 1992, charges the FBI with unwarranted delay in releasing those files.
 According to the suit, "The FBI has further exacerbated the delay in its response to FOIA requests by transferring records to headquarters for processing even though headquarters has an extensive administrative backlog and field offices have a substantially smaller backlog."
 "This transfer," the suit contends, "adds substantial and unnecessary delay that is simply not justified by the FBI's purported reasons for such transfers. The FBI should not be allowed to cavalierly disregard the FOIA's time constraints by erecting procedural obstacles that foster delay and defeat the expeditious disclosure principles that Congress placed at the heart of the act."
 Church spokesman, Alex Jones, indicated the Church's interest in the files was motivated by the discovery that government records often contain false or erroneous information.
 "The FBI has a well-documented history of keeping First- Amendment-protected groups under surveillance for no good reason," Jones noted. "The information in FBI files, much of which often turns out to be false, can then damage reputations and in some cases, place people in serious danger."
 "We are exercising our rights under the FOIA to locate secret files the FBI has been maintaining on the Church. Once located and disclosed, we will challenge the agency on every inaccuracy we find," Jones concluded.
 Government agency delay in processing FOIA requests has long been an issue of great concern for the media, public interest groups, and others who have attempted to use the act to promptly gain access to government information. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced legislation that seeks to curtail such delays by rewarding agencies for timely processing of FOIA requests while imposing penalties upon agencies for excessive delays.
 -0- 2/3/92
 /CONTACT: Alex Jones of the Church of Scientology International, 202-543-6404/ CO: Church of Scientology International ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:


DC-MK -- DC017 -- 6277 02/03/92 15:06 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Feb 3, 1992
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