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Tipsheet

FBI Sued Over Trans Shooter's Manifesto

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

A conservative law firm is taking the Federal Bureau of Investigation to federal court for withholding the manifesto of trans-identified shooter Audrey "Aiden" Hale, who mass murdered six victims, including three children, at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27, as litigation mounts over law enforcement's refusal to release Hale's writings.

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Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL)'s lawsuit against the FBI was filed Wednesday morning in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on behalf of its clients: The Star News Network, a Nashville-headquartered conservative media company that operates a nationwide family of digital newspapers; its editor-in-chief Mike Leahy; and reporter Matt Kittle.

The plaintiffs had submitted a public records request on April 20 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting access to Hale's manifesto and, after the FBI denied the formal FOIA request seeking a copy of the manifesto, WILL appealed to the U.S. Department of Justice, a preliminary step required by federal law. Then on May 5, the Biden administration's DOJ rejected the expedited administrative-appeal challenge and affirmed the FBI's April 25 decision, triggering WILL's latest legal action.

According to the FBI's denial memo addressed to The Star News Network's journalist, the bureau stated that the material requested is "located in an investigative file which is exempt from disclosure," pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A). The FBI's letter also asserted that the information's release could "reasonably be expected to interfere with [law] enforcement proceedings."

"Hale is dead and no threat remains to the public related to the events of March 27," WILL's lawsuit countered. "There is no criminal prosecution, investigation, or anything resembling an 'enforcement proceeding.' FBI is apparently attempting to interpret the manifesto, but at this point, interpreting or reviewing the manifesto is an academic exercise and certainly not an enforcement proceeding. In short, there is simply no reason why FBI cannot release the manifesto." The complaint added: "It has been long enough, and the public has an urgent right to know why this tragedy happened, how future events may be prevented, and what policies should be in place to address this and other similar tragedies. FBI has no right to retain a monopoly on this information."

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"Biden's highly politicized agency is blocking access to the Nashville Shooter's Manifesto. These records are critical to understand the shooter's motivation & how we can prevent future attacks. See you in court," WILL deputy counsel Dan Lennington tweeted Wednesday. In a press release issued by the Milwaukee-based nonprofit, WILL deputy counsel Lucas Vebber commented: "The federal government does not get to pick and choose whether they release information that lawfully belongs to the public. Our efforts are critical to holding our federal government accountable and promoting transparency.”

A media firestorm erupted in the wake of the Covenant School massacre over the manifesto's delayed release. More than a month after Hale took six innocent lives in cold blood, police are still stalling on making documents publicly available that could pinpoint the killer's motive, which authorities have not yet identified. Due to "pending litigation" filed earlier in the week, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) announced on May 3 the police force has been "advised by counsel to hold in abeyance the release of records" in relevance to the Covenant School mass shooting "pending orders or direction of the court."

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The police's announcement followed local guns group Tennessee Firearms Association lodging a lawsuit against Nashville over inaccessibility to Hale's manifesto, alleging that the city's police department had violated the Tennessee Public Records Act.

Hale's manifesto reportedly will be released "eventually" once the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) is finished conducting its ongoing investigation. MNPD's public information office told WZTV that the investigation has "progressed to the point" where Hale's writings are "now being reviewed for public release." Though the process is "currently underway," it will "take some time."

The writings—recovered from Hale's vehicle that was parked in the school's parking lot and found in the bedroom of her home—remain under "careful review" by the MNPD and the FBI's BAU in Quantico, Virginia. So far, it is known from journal entries that Hale "considered the actions of other mass murderers" and plotted the "calculated and planned" attack over a period of months.

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