The first lawsuit for the release of Osama bin Laden's postmortem photograph has been filed by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch this morning. "This is arguably as important as any lawsuit we've filed," said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton at a D.C. press conference on Friday.
According to the Judicial Watch complaint (which you can download as PDF here), the Department of Defense replied to Judicial Watch's FOIA on May 9, saying that it would not be able to produce the photographs in the timeframe specified by the FOIA law.
Judicial Watch claims that this response means it has "exhausted any and all administrative remedies with respect to its FOIA request" and that the Pentagon is "unlawfully withholding records." The group asks the Court to order the Defense Department to produce the bin Laden records it has requested.
Scott Hodes, a former Justice Department lawyer in the office of information and privacy, said Judicial Watch's suit runs the risk of being swiftly dismissed. "The government may still be deciding who is the proper agency to respond to the FOIA request. The Navy's not going to say 'yes, we'll give you the pictures' while the CIA says 'no, we're not,'" he told The Atlantic Wire. "We still don't know who's going to take the lead." Technically, the Department of Defense hasn't missed its deadline (even though its reply to Judicial Watch says it plans to). For that reason, it may make a motion to dismiss given that the 20-day statutory time period hasn't ran.