Pentagon Backs Station in FOIA Fight


According to Alan Cohn, investigative reporter with ABC affiliate WTNH-TV New Haven, Conn., the Bush administration is fighting at the station's side for the release of information about problems with a major government contractor.

According to Cohn, helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky has sued the government to block the Pentagon's release of documents related to faulty and defective parts in Black Hawk helicopters.

After initially denying Cohn's FOIA request for the documents, saying complying could make Sikorsky less forthcoming about quality problems in the future, the Defense Department reversed itself in December, says Cohn, telling the station that it would supply the majority of documents requested.

But before Cohn could get the documents, Sikorsky sued the government to block the release. The station is not a party to the suit. The Justice Department is filing a brief with the Federal District Court in Washington asking for summary judgment, according to Cohn.

Cohn first reported back in 2003 on a government "Corrective Action Request" that identified 19 "deficiencies" in the Black Hawks that needed to be fixed or the program would be shut down. Cohn had been contacted by Sikorsky employees raising the red flags, he says. He then made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request as a follow-up to see if any more corrective-actions requests had been issued.

That request was denied, then reversed in December. "This administration, which has a well-earned reputation for keeping things quiet, is actually on the side of trying to provide a reporter documentation of quality issues at one of the biggest defense contractors," says Cohn.