marie mason’s attorney sues the department of justice for refusing to release records

by Tim Phillips

Susan Tipograph, who represents incarcerated activist Marie Mason, filed a lawsuit last week against the Department of Justice (DOJ). She’s seeking access to documents related to Mason for the time period of January 26, 1962 to November 7, 2011. On December 22, 2011, Tipograph sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for such documents to the FBI – an agency of the DOJ – with a privacy waiver signed by Mason authorizing disclosure of the documents.

Mason had accepted a non-cooperating plea bargain in September 2008 related to the role she played in damaging property, specifically logging equipment and a university office used for research on genetically modified organisms. Although neither action injured anyone, she was sentenced in February 2009 to just under 22 years in federal prison. After spending nearly a month in segregation at the Federal Corrections Unit in Waseca, Minnesota, she was reclassified and transferred to a “control-management”-type prison unit in Carswell, Texas.

On March 22, 2012, the FBI informed Tipograph that the documents she requested were located in a file that was exempt from disclosure. Approximately one month later, Tipograph unsuccessfully appealed. Her lawsuit, in which she is represented by attorney Jeff Light, states that the FBI has invoked the same exemption in response to other FOIA requests regarding activists or journalists (e.g., Josh Harper and Will Potter), claiming they can’t disclose the documents because they conveniently placed them in an exempt file.