Judge allows FBI to withhold some Peltier documents
By Carolyn Thompson
Associated Press Writer
BUFFALO, N.Y. The FBI can keep secret a handful of documents in the case of imprisoned American Indian activist Leonard Peltier in the interest of national security, a judge ruled, rejecting efforts by Peltier supporters for a glimpse at the 30-year-old records.
U.S. District Judge William Skretny issued the decision after reviewing some of the pages in private as part of a Freedom of Information request by attorneys fighting to have Peltier's 1977 conviction overturned.
Peltier, a former Grand Forks resident, is serving a life sentence in the deaths of two FBI agents during a 1975 standoff on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Attorney Michael Kuzma said today he planned to appeal Skretny's ruling.
"I'm disappointed but not shocked," Kuzma said.
Peltier supporters have taken legal action to collect more than 100,000 pages of FBI documents from field offices nationwide which they say should have been turned over to Peltier lawyers at the time of his trial or following a Freedom of Information request filed soon after.
The FBI in Buffalo released nearly 800 pages of material in 2004, but withheld others, citing exemptions allowed under the Freedom of Information Act for national security concerns and to protect the identity of agents and confidential sources.
"Plaintiff has not established the existence of bad faith or provided any evidence contradicting (the FBI's) claim that the release of these documents would endanger national security or would impair this country's relationship with a foreign government," the judge wrote in his decision Friday.
"The pages we were most intrigued about revolved around a teletype from Buffalo ... a three-page document that seems to indicate that a confidential source was being advised by the FBI not to engage in conduct that would compromise attorney-client privilege," Kuzma said.
Supporters have said Peltier, who is imprisoned in Lewisburg, Pa., was treated unfairly because of his political activism.