University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name ACLU v. DHS NS-DC-0114
Docket / Court 1:16-cv-00221 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) National Security
Attorney Organization ACLU National (all projects)
Case Summary
On February 10, 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the ... read more >
On February 10, 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of State, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education. The ACLU sought the release of records related to the federal government’s “Countering Violent Extremism” programs under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (FOIA). The ACLU alleged that the agencies did not “make a reasonable effort to search for records in electronic forms or format responsive to Plaintiff’s Request,” in violation of FOIA. The case was assigned to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

The ACLU alleged that these initiatives likely posed a risk to the right of equal protection and the freedoms of speech, religion and association. It submitted the original FOIA requests on May 13, 2015. Five of the seven agencies did not respond to the request, or released only a small number of documents.

The documents pertained to the 2011 “Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” The plan identified three areas of priority action for the agencies in “building resistance to violent extremism”: “enhancing Federal engagement with and support to local communities that may be targeted by violent extremists....Building government and law enforcement expertise for preventing violent extremism”; and “countering violent extremism propaganda while promoting our ideals.”

The pilot program was implemented in Los Angeles, Boston, and Minneapolis in September 2014. In February 2015, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice participated in a summit where it was announced that the Department of Justice had already awarded “nearly $3.5 million in grants ‘to address domestic radicalization to violent extremism.’” In July 2015, the House Homeland Security Committee recommended passage a bill that would allocate $10 million to create a Countering Violent Extremism Office within the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Justice also launched the “Strong Cities Network,” which is a platform to “strengthen community resilience against violent extremism” with members New York, Atlanta, Denver and Minneapolis.

Despite the strong governmental commitment to this initiative, the ACLU alleged that agencies had not released basic information on the Countering Violent Extremism programs including policy guidelines, training for officials, criteria for receiving funding or grants, or research and assessments justifying the need for and implementation of these projects.

After the ACLU filed this lawsuit, the court ordered that the agencies issue joint status reports reporting their progress in fulfilling the FOIA requests. The agencies have filed 19 such Joint Status Reports as of August 3, 2020. The ACLU has reported receiving the documents listed here.

Courtney Liss - 01/27/2019

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Religion discrimination
Records Disclosure
Religious programs / policies
Terrorism/Post 9-11 issues
National Origin/Ethnicity
Arab/Afgani/Middle Eastern
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552
Defendant(s) Department of Education
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Justice
Department of State
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Plaintiff Description American Civil Liberties Union
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU National (all projects)
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 02/10/2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  ACLU v. Department of Homeland Security: FOIA lawsuit seeking records on “Countering Violent Extremism” Programs
Date: Jan. 28, 2019
By: American Civil Liberties Union
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Countering Violent Extremism
Date: Jan. 28, 2019
By: Homeland Security
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
NS-DC-0114-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
NS-DC-0114-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Kollar-Kotelly, Colleen (FISC, D.D.C.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Handeyside, Hugh (New York) show/hide docs
Jefferis, Danielle C. (Colorado) show/hide docs
Shamsi, Hina (New York) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0114-0001 | NS-DC-0114-9000
Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0114-0001 | NS-DC-0114-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Snell, Kevin Matthew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs

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