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Protect Democracy’s Lawsuit Challenging the Government’s Publication of Disinformation about Foreign Terrorism

On January 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a report entitled “Executive Order 13780: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, Initial Section 11 Report.” The report was released pursuant to the second in a series of executive orders banning people from a set of predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Shortly after the report was issued, Protect Democracy and the Brennan Center for Justice, along with other experts, filed a petition under the Information Quality Act (IQA) identifying fundamental flaws in the report that violate the government’s own guidelines, and asking DOJ and DHS to retract or correct the report. When the agencies failed to respond to the petition in the timeframe required by law, the petitioners filed suit in Massachusetts.

After filing suit, petitioners filed administrative appeals with the agencies, asking the agencies to reconsider their refusal to correct or rescind the report. In their appeal, petitioners provided specific data-based critiques of the report’s conclusion. Both agencies denied the appeal, despite the fact that the report includes factual claims that the agencies have since admitted were not just misleading, but false.

Following the agencies’ admission, the petitioners filed an amended complaint on March 29, 2019. It is available here.

The original release is here, and the original complaint can be read here.

When the report was published, it was criticized by people from across the ideological spectrum. You can read a collection of that criticism here.

Scholars have raised concerns about the democratic implications of governments spreading misinformation. You can read that here.

The lawsuit is Protect Democracy et al. v. DOJ, Case 1:18-cv-10874, before Judge Douglas P. Woodcock in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

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