FOIA Request Response on Hillary Clinton: “No Public Interest Involved”

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by Sharon Rondeau

(Mar. 25, 2013) — After it was reported in mid-December that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suffered dehydration, a fall and subsequent concussion, The Post & Email filed a Freedom of Information request for a transcript or audio recording of the presumed 911 call made on her behalf.

Reports differed on whether Clinton’s mishap occurred at her State Department office or at home, but an initial report stated that she “purportedly” was on State Department premises when it happened.

On December 17, two days after it was filed, our request for the documentation was denied by the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department.  In speaking with one of its members prior to filing the request, the officer on duty told us, “This is the first I’ve heard of it” in regard to Clinton’s concussion.

Last June, then-Commerce Secretary John Bryson was hospitalized after causing two hit-and-run crashes in the Los Angeles, CA area, incidents which were widely publicized, including treatment he received and the fact that he allegedly had a seizure at some point.  The name of the hospital where Bryon allegedly stayed was not revealed, however.

Ten days later, Bryon resigned for “medical issues.”

A concussion is considered serious and necessitating several tests to determine the extent of brain injury, if any.  A medical source states that “After even a mild concussion,” the patient should “Avoid tasks that require concentration or complicated thinking. These include reading, homework, and preparing reports.”

The State Department reported that Clinton resumed her State Department activities “at home” the following week, with her doctors having been quoted as saying that she had become dehydrated and fainted.  State Department personnel reported that Clinton had a concussion.

As Clinton had been expected to testify later that month on the September 11, 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya prior to her departure within the coming weeks, some writers expressed doubt at the public story.  No hospital was reported as having treated Clinton until December 31, when a doctor reportedly found a blood clot in her head on a Sunday at a “routine checkup” following treatment for the concussion.

After Clinton’s hospitalization, State Department personnel gave vague updates on her condition without corroboration from a physician, although she was predicted to make a “full recovery.”

Clinton eventually testified on January 23 to two congressional committees on Benghazi, responding to one with the rhetorical question, “What difference does it make?” when asked who was responsible for murdering the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans on the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. mainland.

After receiving the FOIA denial, The Post & Email contacted the office of the Mayor of the District of Columbia as directed, appealing on the basis that any documentation related to Clinton’s hospitalization should be released because Clinton was a “public servant.” In our appeal, we referred to the handling of the Bryson incident.

More than two months later, we were informed by an assistant that the mayor’s office needed more information to process the request, which was simply our initial email to the DC Metropolitan Police Department.  All emails were then forwarded on March 1, 2013.

We received an acknowledgement the same day and our appeal was processed.

On March 14, Donald S. Kaufman, Deputy General Counsel for the mayor’s office, wrote a letter upholding the Metropolitan Police Department’s decision and therefore denying the release of any documentation relative to Clinton.  Kaufman’s six-page letter quotes case law extensively and cites the incorrect response date from the Metro Police Department of September 12, 2012, three months before our request was made, and stated that “Based on the administrative record in this matter, we find that the issue in the Appeal presents difficulty in framing” (page 2).

On page 3, Kaufman states of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD):

We do not understand why a statement simply of the existence of the record would result in an unwarranted invasion of privacy given the widespread reporting of the incident, but MPD indicates in its response to the Appeal that it is no longer relying on this contention.

On pages 5-6, Kaufman concludes that “In this case, Appellant has only offered that this matter involves ‘a significant arrest that relates to a high-profile person.’  However, it appears that the arrest is significant only because it applies to a person characterized as high-profile.  Celebrity alone does not establish a public interest.  Here, the disclosure of the records will not contribute anything to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government or the performance of MPD…Thus, as this is not a case involving the efficiency or propriety of agency action, there is no public interest involved.”

Kaufman’s letter follows.


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