Judicial Watch, a watchdog group that keeps an eye out for misconduct by public officials, announced late last week it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department for all records of communications relating to the investigation into former Democratic information technology (IT) staffers Abid Awan, Imran Awan, Jamal Awan and Hina R. Alvi (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-02563)).
You may recall Imran Awan and his family were banned from the House computer network in February 2017 after the House’s top law enforcement officer wrote that Imran is “an ongoing and serious risk to the House of Representatives, possibly threatening the integrity of our information systems,” and that a server containing evidence had gone “missing.” The inspector general said server logs showed “unauthorized access” and procurement records were falsified.
Imran Awan was Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s top information technology aide. He had split his time between a number of Democratic lawmakers, most of whom fired him in February. But Wasserman Schultz kept him on until he was arrested in July while trying to board a flight for Pakistan.
Imran Awan was allowed a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud but prosecutors found no evidence that Awan “violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems.”
The Judicial Watch lawsuit was filed after the FBI failed to respond adequately to two FOIA requests.
The FBI claimed it could neither confirm nor deny records related to the first request, filed May 26, 2017, seeking:
- All records related to any investigations or preliminary investigations involving former congressional IT support staffers Abid Awan, Imran Awan, Jamal Awan, and Hina R. Alvi. As part of this request, searches of records should include, but not be limited to, the FBI automated indices, its older manual indices, and its Electronic Surveillance (ELSUR) Data Management System (EDMS), as well as cross-referenced files.
- All records of communication sent to or from FBI employees, officials or contractors involving the subjects in bullet item 1.
The timeframe for the requested records is May 2015 to the present.
Further, the FBI claimed that records related to a July 3, 2018, FOIA request were located in an investigative file and exempt from disclosure. That request sought:
- All records related to any investigations or preliminary investigations involving former congressional IT support staffers Abid Awan, Imran Awan, Jamal Awan, Hina R. Alvi and Rao Abbas. As part of this request, searches of records should include, but not be limited to, the FBI automated indices, its older manual indices, and its Electronic Surveillance (ELSUR) Data Management System (EDMS), as well as cross-referenced files.
- All records of communications, including but not limited to emails (whether on .gov or non-.gov email accounts), text messages, instant chats or messages on the Lync system, sent to or from FBI employees, officials or contractors involving the Awan brothers, Ms. Alvi and Mr. Abbas. Records of communications searched should include but not be limited to those between FBI officials, employees and contractors and officials with the Capitol Police, the Office of the Inspector General of the House, and the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer of the House.
“It’s time for the full truth to come out about the House Democrat IT scandal, especially with impending change of power in the House,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “There is hope that the new leadership at the DOJ will bring transparency to this case, as well as many pending FOIA investigations.”
On Oct. 11, 2017, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton participated in a discussion between House members and experts regarding the Wasserman Schultz/Awan Brothers/IT scandal. During this discussion, Fitton stated:
“Frankly when it comes to crimes with a political component, I fear the Justice Department is going to fear to tread. And because of the political nature of what went on (with the Awan family), they’re not going to push the House ... and I fear that the Justice Department will be fearful of raising these issues with the House for fear of embarrassing the leadership of both parties ... and that’s something we need to push the Justice Department on. That they don’t under-charge or under-investigate this for fear of the consequences that will happen if they push further and find something that no one wants to find, which is a national security threat at our breast here in the House.”
On June 7, 2018, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook. The Democrat I.T. scandal is a key to much of the corruption we see today. They want to make a “plea deal” to hide what is on their Server. Where is their Server? Really bad!”