Group Sues DEA for Drone Footage of Deadly Jamaican Drug Raid

More than 70 were killed in 2010


On Dec. 19, three students in the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic (MFIA) brought a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) action against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to compel the agency to release aerial surveillance footage of a 2010 raid in Jamaica that led to the deaths of more than 70 civilians, including one U.S. citizen. The students filed the suit on behalf of Mattathias Schwartz, a reporter who has covered the deadly raid for The New Yorker, under the supervision of Lynn Oberlander, the magazine's general counsel. 

The suit arose from FOIA requests that Schwartz had made with the DEA and other federal agencies for records pertaining to the raid. In 2010, the Jamaican government authorized its police and military forces to enter Tivoli Gardens, a neighborhood in the Jamaican city of Kingston, to arrest Christopher "Dudus" Coke, one of the country's most powerful drug lords, and extradite him to the United States to face charges for trafficking in narcotics and firearms. Through his reporting, Schwartz discovered that the U.S. government had provided assistance by dispatching an aircraft to surveil the operation and pass intelligence on to the Jamaican forces on the ground. His piece in The New Yorker, "A Massacre in Jamaica," prompted Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness to publicly acknowledge the U.S. involvement.