The FBI is instructing Florida agencies that responded to the Orlando terrorist attack to deny requests for public records pertaining to the case.
The Daily Caller reported that Mateen called police several times during the three hour ordeal to declare his allegiance to ISIS, yet only a fraction of his discussions with authorities that night have been released to the public — first an edited version, than an unedited one.
In response to a lawsuit by local media seeking the release of the 911 audio, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office released a letter they got from the FBI instructing them to deny all requests for information and refer news outlets seeking information to the feds, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
The letter reads, in part:
As you know, this is an active, on-going investigation being conducted by the FBI. The FBI considers information obtained from the state and local enforcement agencies in furtherance of its investigation to be evidence or potential evidence. Accordingly, the FBI is concerned that public disclosure of such records or information at this time will adversely affect our ability to effectively investigate the shooting and bring the matter to resolution; could endanger the safety of law enforcement officers, and other individuals who have participated in or are otherwise connected with the investigation; and risks unduly prejudicing any prosecutions that may result from the investigation.
The letter is signed by Paul Wysopal, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Tampa field office.
Those recordings and all records are public records under Florida law and are subject to freedom of information requests.
The “FBI doesn’t have the authority to hijack Florida’s constitution, which guarantees us a right of access to all non-exempt public records,” Barbara Petersen, President of the First Amendment Foundation, told the Orlando Sentinel.
On orders from the FBI, the city of Orlando has thus far refused to release any records, they say, “out of respect for the Pulse shooting victims and the families” and at the “direction of the FBI,” according to the Sentinel.