The Declaration is Going to Court to Get Sealed Records in Philly ISIL Case

Last Wednesday, The Declaration filed a motion in federal court asking for access to sealed records in the criminal case against Keonna Thomas. Thomas plead guilty in September to attempting to join the Islamic State after her bid to discover more information on surveillance techniques used in her case failed.

The Declaration has been covering this case since it began in April 2015, but we have sometimes found our reporting frustrated by the volume of records filed in the case but sealed from public view.

As attorneys Michael Berry and Paul Safier note in our motion, the principle of public access to court records is “even more vital in this case, which involves matters of substantial public concern: the alleged cooperation of a United States citizen with an international terrorist organization and the Government’s surveillance of its own citizens.”

We began planning this legal step during the summer, after our informal requests to the presiding judge turned up little. The results of the election earlier this month did not play a role in our decision to file this motion; regardless of who won, we were going to pursue all legal means to report on this case and its implications.

However, the election results have made public understanding of America’s national security machinery even more important. There will always be government officials who want to hide their conduct from the public, sometimes to cover up failures and abuses. This certainly would have been the case with a Clinton presidency.

But now, we have a President-elect who has previously called for a return to waterboarding, intentional targeting of non-combatant civilians and worse, who will receive the keys to the security apparatus from an administration dedicated to defeating effective independent oversight.

If we want to avert these wrongs, we need increased transparency for the workings of our security agencies. The Declaration plans to do our part.

View our motion filed in the Keonna Thomas case below:

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