The FBI has asked law enforcement agencies who responded to Pulse nightclub to withhold records from the public, according to officials.
A June 20 letter from the FBI, attached to the City or Orlando’s lawsuit over withholding 911 calls and other records from 25 media outlets including the Orlando Sentinel, was also sent to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office with instructions pertaining to how they should respond to records requests.
The letter requests that agencies deny inquiries and directs departments to “immediately notify the FBI of any requests your agency received” so “the FBI can seek to prevent disclosure through appropriate channels, as necessary.”
The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office sent the Sentinel the letter Tuesday night in response to a request for documents, video and audio recordings from the early morning hours of June 12.
A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office said the FBI sent them the letter Monday night and “instructed us to forward it to anyone requesting records.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in Orange County Circuit Court, moved to federal court after the City of Orlando named the Department of Justice as a defendant in the case. An attorney for the city said the change was made because “the dispute is really between the FBI and the media.”
Barbara Petersen, President of the First Amendment Foundation, said the “FBI doesn’t have the authority to hijack Florida’s constitution, which guarantees us a right of access to all non-exempt public records.”