ACLU Foundation of Northern California and SF Bay Guardian v. Drug Enforcement Administration

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May 10, 2011

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ACLU of Northern CA

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California (ACLU-NC) and The San Francisco Bay Guardian (The Guardian) filed a preliminary injunction motion on April 28, asking the court to order the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to disclose records regarding the worldwide scramble for execution drugs by state prison officials. The ACLU Foundation of Northern California and The Guardian filed a federal lawsuit on Friday, April 22, 2011, to enforce a request for records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which the DEA had ignored for nearly four months. The suit was filed after Arizona and Nebraska set execution dates intending to use imported drugs of questionable legality and quality.

On January 4, 2011, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and The Guardian submitted FOIA requests to three federal agencies seeking records related to the federal government’s role in assisting – or failing to oversee – efforts by states to acquire controlled substances from outside the United States to carry out executions. The requests, submitted to the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), sought documents that would reveal whether state officials violated any laws in the states’ scramble to acquire execution drugs and the role of federal agents in the process.

The DEA granted the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and The Guardian expedited processing of the FOIA request submitted in January. In so doing, the DEA acknowledged that the records relate to an issue of significant public importance and that the public had an urgent need for the information contained in the records. Yet, for nearly four months, the DEA failed to produce any records and failed to even provide a timeline for when records would be produced.

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