The Volokh Conspiracy

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FBI seeking to prevent disclosure of information about Orlando shooting


The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

In the wake of the horrific attack on the Pulse nightclub, the Justice Department initially released a redacted transcript of one of the shooter's 911 calls. Although that decision was quickly reversed, the Justice Department is still seeking to prevent the disclosure of information related to the shooter's contacts with local law enforcement during the attack and standoff with the police, including information that is supposed to be publicly available under Florida law.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

The FBI has asked law enforcement agencies who responded to Pulse nightclub to withhold records from the public, according to officials.

A June 20 letter from the FBI, attached to the City or Orlando's lawsuit over withholding 911 calls and other records from 25 media outlets including the Orlando Sentinel, was also sent to the Seminole County Sheriff's Office with instructions pertaining to how they should respond to records requests.

The letter requests that agencies deny inquiries and directs departments to "immediately notify the FBI of any requests your agency received" so "the FBI can seek to prevent disclosure through appropriate channels, as necessary.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office sent the Sentinel the letter Tuesday night in response to a request for documents, video and audio recordings from the early morning hours of June 12.

The Orlando Sentinel is suing for the release of additional 911 call transcripts and other information related to the attack. Local officials are apparently withholding this information due to the FBI request, but it is not apparent what legal authority the FBI has to prevent the disclosure of such information under applicable state law.

UPDATE: The full letter from the FBI is available here.