FBI, PRM discuss Davidov FOIA request

April 14, 2013

During the course of his lifetime, Twin Cities-based peace activist Marv Davidov had been the subject of ongoing scrutiny by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Court documents housed at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) show that the FBI had surveilled Davidov over the course of multiple years when he was active with the now-defunct disarmament protest group known as the “Honeywell Project.” The agency’s Davidov-focused records initially came to light during a lawsuit brought by the Honeywell Project, and are now part of the vast records collection of the MHS.

After Marv Davidov passed away in early 2012, Public Record Media sought to obtain the FBI’s full collection of records on Davidov, in order to fill out the historical record about the activist’s Honeywell-related activities, as well as Minnesota-based political protest more generally. The FBI responded to our request in September of last year, and stated that the agency held approximately 11,806 pages of responsive records. We subsequently sought electronic copies of all such documents.

On April 5, 2013, Becky Barnson from the FBI’s FOIA office called to ask if PRM would be interested in narrowing the scope of its Davidov FOIA request in order to expedite processing. She noted that the size of PRM’s copy order had placed it in the “large queue” track, and as such it would take a substantial amount of time to complete.

During the course of our conversation, Ms. Barnson noted that the FBI held multiple documents relating to a Minnesota-based lawsuit, and wondered if PRM might wish to disregard such documents, since they would likely be available from the court that handled the case.

I indicated that PRM might be willing to forego copies of the court records, since they were likely duplicates of those currently held by the Minnesota Historical Society. I also asked for more clarity regarding the scope of the court documents before making a decision.

Ms. Barnson and I spoke again on April 11, 2013. Ms. Barnson noted that the court documents held by the agency pertained to a Honeywell Project lawsuit that began in 1977, and that there were 4650 in all. I asked her to exclude such documents from the copy order, since they likely overlapped with the MHS document collection. Ms. Barnson noted that the remaining documents would be provided on CD in a series of fourteen “interim releases,” and that production would take up to a year to complete.

Find PRM’s prior correspondence related to this request request. Find an inventory of the MHS “Honeywell Project” lawsuit records here.