AG Ferguson files federal lawsuits against three agencies for failing to produce records related to National Archives in Seattle

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Federal Archives building in north Seattle. It is due to be sold and the documents will be shipped to Missouri and California. The archives contain extensive local records including on the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese-American internments, records from native tribes, and the history of the property itself, which was a farm belonging to a Japanese family who were forcibly removed.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuits today against three agencies involved in the January decision to close the Federal Archives and Records Center in Seattle, sell the building and move the records stored there to facilities more than 1,000 miles away.

Ferguson is also sending a letter to a fourth agency who is demanding tens of thousands of dollars to produce the requested records, informing them that if they continue to fail to produce the documents he is prepared to file a lawsuit against them, as well.

The lawsuits seek public records that Ferguson requested more than six months ago under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) related to the decision. Not one of the agencies has provided a single document to the Attorney General’s Office — an egregious violation of the key federal open government law.

Ferguson’s letter informs the PBRB that he is prepared to file a lawsuit if they do not produce the records he requested.

“The decision to close the National Archives in Seattle has far-reaching impacts across the Northwest,” Ferguson said. 
“The first-hand, historical records contained there is essential to the cultural fabric of our communities. 
"The federal government did not seek any local input on its decision to move these important records more than 1,000 miles away, and now illegally refuse to provide documents about how the decision was made. The people have a right to know.”

In January, the OMB approved a recommendation from the PBRB to sell the Federal Archives and Records Center on Sand Point Way in Seattle. The board’s recommendation included removing the contents of the Seattle archives and relocating them to National Archives facilities in Kansas City, Mo., and Riverside, Calif.

The Seattle archives contain many records essential to Washington’s historical record, including tens of thousands of files on the Chinese Exclusion Act, records on the internment of Japanese Americans, and tribal and treaty records of federally recognized tribes throughout the Northwest. Researchers, historians, genealogists and students routinely use these records.

More information here


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