NTSB Breaks FOIA Laws
FIRO Complaint Against NTSB
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD
COMPLAINT AND REQUEST FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
The plaintiff, GRAEME SEPHTON, at all times relevant to the allegations of
this Complaint, has been a resident of the Town of Shutesbury, Hampshire County, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The defendant, the NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD, is an
agency of the of the United States.
Subject matter jurisdiction exists pursuant to 5 USC § 552(a)(4)(B) which grants a
district court of the United States jurisdiction to enjoin an agency from improperly withholding records and to order said agency to produce such records to the complainant. Venue is proper in the District of Massachusetts under 5 USC § 552(a)(4)(B) which grants jurisdiction to the district court in the district in which the complainant lives.
- On or about October 5, 1999, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act
(hereinafter, FOIA), plaintiff Sephton requested from defendant NTSB the following records:
a. primary and secondary radar data for the whole 24 hour period (12 hours before the accident [of TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996], through 12 hours after) from the FAA Islip ATC site;
- primary and secondary radar data for a 4 hour period (2 hours before the
accident [of TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996], through 2 hours after) from
the Boston, JFK, Newark, NY Center and HPN FAA ATC sites; and
- primary radar signal strength data for all of the hits included in the above data.
- On or about February 1, 2000, defendant NTSB, without processing plaintiff
Sephton’s request, wrote him, suggesting that he could find the raw data he was seeking in unprocessed Federal Aviation Administration tapes.
- In early March 2000, during a phone conversation, Bill Love, Counsel for the NTSB,
advised plaintiff Sephton that the data he was seeking "has been excluded from public exhibit and therefore cannot be released."
- On or about March 18, 2000, plaintiff Sephton appealed the NTSB’s failure to
process his FOIA request to the FOIA Officer of the NTSB, Ms Melba Moye. In his appeal, plaintiff Sephton reiterated that he was requesting the NTSB to send to him its translations of the raw radar data into interpretative, derivative reports [e.g.., charts, data files, etc.], used by NTSB engineers and analysts to formulate their theory of the cause of the crash of TWA Flight 800.
- As of July 17, 2000, four months from the date plaintiff Sephton appealed the
NTSB’s failure to send him the documents he requested pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, he has not received a reply from the NTSB in response to his appeal.
- The NTSB has issued a statement that its investigation into the crash of TWA Flight
800 will be concluded as of August 23, 2000. On that date, the agency will likely delete from its files the information being requested by the plaintiff.
CLAIM I: REQUEST FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF ENJOINING DEFENDANT NTSB FROM ACTING IN BAD FAITH BY IGNORING THE PLAINTIFF’S REQUEST FOR SPECIFIC RECORDS KNOWN TO BE IN ITS POSSESSION.
- The plaintiff hereby incorporates by reference the allegations of Paragraphs 1
through 9 of this Complaint as though fully set forth herein.
- 5 U.S.C. § 552 (a)(3) requires that governmental agencies "upon any request for
records. . . shall make the records promptly available to any person."
12. Defendant NTSB acted in bad faith when, in response to plaintiff Sephton’s
legitimate FOIA request for its translations of raw radar data into interpretative, derivative reports [e.g., charts, data files, etc.] used by NTSB engineers and analysts to formulate their theory as to the cause of the crash of TWA Flight 800, it did not conduct an adequate search of its records and then release to him all the requested records it has in its possession. Such action violated 5 U.S.C. § 552 (a)(3), causing injury to the plaintiff.
- Defendant NTSB also acted in bad faith by not responding, within twenty day, to
plaintiff’s appeal of its failure to send him the requested documents. Such action violated 5 U.S.C. § 552(f)(6)(A)(ii), causing harm to the plaintiff.
14. Plaintiff Sephton, who has exhausted his administrative remedies, is entitled to
judicial review of this claim pursuant to 5 USC § 552(a)(4)(B).
WHEREFORE, the plaintiff requests that this court:
- enjoin defendant NTSB from acting in bad faith and order it to conduct a good faith, adequate search of its records in response to the plaintiff’s request and to release to the plaintiff all requested records located during the course of this search;
- require the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s litigation costs and expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees; and
- award such other relief as this Court deems just, equitable and appropriate
DATED: July 17, 2000; Respectively submitted,
By his Attorney
P.O. Box 2236
Amherst, Massachusetts 01004