A Northwestern University professor is suing the State Department and a dozen other federal agencies or offices alleging they are “utterly failing” to obey open records laws.
Jacqueline Stevens, a professor of political science, has requested government contracts that she contends will show that Northwestern and other universities provide “goods and services to U.S government agencies that militarize foreign and domestic relations.”
Based on information and belief, the materials requested will provide insights into the corruption of independent inquiry and education by directors and officers of firms such as Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, and Halliburton who are also running the research universities bidding on these contracts.
A status hearing in the case is set for 9 a.m. March 20 before Judge Andrea R. Wood in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. See docket.
Government officials deny that the agencies have violated the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
Stevens is a controversial professor. In 2016, she clashed with professor Alvin Tillery, who accused her on Facebook of having a “break from reality.”
Professor Sara Monoson backed Tillery. In an email to Inside Higher Ed, she said the “abhorrent attacks” on Tillery “are not isolated incidents but rather part of a pattern of uncivil and threatening conduct by Stevens…” Monoson wrote:
She has a long history at Northwestern of gross incivility toward her co-workers and some students that has caused extreme disruptions of normal department business for years.
Her behavior towards colleagues and graduate students inside the department of political science was worsening in truly frightening ways last year, prompting many expressions of alarm. Yes, some members of my department worried that she seemed to be out of touch with reality and feared for the safety of the workplace.
Stevens, a Guggenheim Fellow in 2013-2014, has said her colleagues were retaliating against her for her activism and political views.
Below are excerpts from her FOIA lawsuit:
This is an action under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 522 (hereinafter “FOIA”) seeking agency records wrongfully withheld in what appears to be a broad pattern and practice by the federal government across multiple agencies of utterly failing to comply with its obligations under the FOIA statute. The nature of the agency records requested relate to programs managing United States (hereinafter “U.S.”) national sovereignty in the areas of deportation, surveillance, propaganda, and weapons production, distribution, and counter-terrorism.
Professor Jacqueline Stevens seeks declaratory, injunctive and any other relief the court deems appropriate with respect to the unlawful withholding of these records by: the Board of Broadcasting Governors(“BBG”),the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”), an agency of the United States Department of Commerce (“DOC”); Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (“ICE”) and Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), both agencies of the United State Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”); the United States Geological Survey (“USGS”), within the Department of the Interior (“DOI”); Executive Office of Immigration Review (“EOIR”), Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Office of Justice Programs (“OJP”), within the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”); the Administration for Children and Families (“ACF”), within the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”); the United States Department of State (“DOS”), and the United States Administration for International Development (“USAID”).
Stevens needs these records for her scholarship and journalism analyzing professional and criminal misconduct in government, corporations, and non-profit organizations that implement policies on behalf of U.S. national sovereignty.
Plaintiff Professor Jacqueline Stevens is a Professor of Political Science and since 2012 the founding Director of the Deportation Research Clinic at Northwestern University.
Stevens’ past publications using documents obtained under the FOIA have been used to draw national attention to secret ICE detention facilities in unmarked office parks and urban buildings; the unlawful detention and deportation of U.S. citizens as aliens; and major violations by private prisons of employment laws and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, including forced labor. In addition to scholarship and media coverage, the information she obtained and analyzed became the basis for litigation.
Stevens is trained as a political theorist. Her requests for which she seeks injunctive relief in this Complaint are for the purpose of analyzing, reporting, and theorizing the contradictions of nativism, nationalism, and militarism with the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. This includes the detention and deportation of U.S. citizens as aliens, the mistreatment of people held under immigration law, and the distortions of knowledge produced by what Senator William Fulbright called the “military-industrial-academic complex.”
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, now called the Agency for Global Media, is named in the lawsuit. Stevens says she requested contracts between the BBG and D3 Systems, Inc. She writes:
Surveys and polls BBG commissions have been presented by U.S. government officials as having been developed by independent media sources, such as ABC News, even though the information is commissioned from contractors hired by the U.S. government.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Prashant Kolluri represents the government agencies. He denies her accusations and writes:
Stevens’s claims are barred to the extent she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies prior to filing suit.