Nine prominent news organizations have filed a lawsuit against the Executive Office for United States Attorneys and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, seeking access to government surveillance videos of the January 6, 2021 riot at the United States Capitol.
The plaintiffs include Advance Publications, The Associated Press, Cable News Network (CNN), CBS Broadcasting Inc., The E.W. Scripps Company, Gannett Co., POLITICO LLC, Pro Publica, and The New York Times Company.
In their lawsuit, the news organizations seek an order to compel the defendants to produce copies of government surveillance videos of the riot, which they claim is of deep national importance and historical significance. The videos were taken during the Capitol riot and have been submitted as evidence in many court cases.
The plaintiffs argue that the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy has denied access to the Capitol Surveillance Videos to any other news organization or journalist, except to Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave Carlson access to over 40,000 hours of January 6 footage earlier this year, which has premiered exclusively on Fox News.
The news organizations filed the lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking general access to the government videos. While congressional committees investigating the riot have been provided with the videos, and some clips were shown during the impeachment proceedings, the plaintiffs have requested access to the videos from the Speaker’s Office and leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, but have not yet received them. The Speaker’s office has only indicated that the videos will be released to the press and public in some manner eventually.
According to the Citizen’s Guide on using the Freedom of Information Act, “The FOIA does not apply to elected officials of the Federal Government, including the President, Vice President, Senators, and Representatives. The FOIA does not apply to the Federal judiciary. The FOIA does not apply to private companies; persons who receive Federal contracts or grants; private organizations; or State or local governments.”
They argue that the videos are a critical source of information about the events of January 6 and are necessary to hold government officials and participants accountable. The plaintiffs note that the riot was a violent attack on American democracy and that access to the videos is essential for journalists to report on the truth and to ensure that the public has a clear understanding of what occurred.
The lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The news organizations are seeking an order requiring the government to release the videos to the public as soon as possible, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.
As of now, it’s unclear whether Kevin McCarthy is legally required to give access to the Capitol surveillance footage to the news organizations that filed the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed under the Freedom of Information Act, which requires federal agencies to disclose records upon request, but it’s uncertain whether this law applies to the Speaker of the House’s office.