The FBI was ordered by a federal judge in September to produce information from murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich’s laptop. Last week, the bureau requested that the court reverse its order. Failing that, the FBI wants a lifetime to produce the information.
According to an Oct. 27 court filing, the FBI alleged that the data it previously denied having “[comprised] approximately 400,000 pages, plus images and videos,” which it could only review and process at the “rate of 500 pages per month.”
At that rate, 6,000 pages containing information potentially relevant to Rich’s murder would be processed — but not necessarily released — every year over the course of the next 66 years.
What are the details?
27-year-old Seth Rich was a voter expansion data director at the DNC who was murdered around 4:20 a.m. on July 10, 2016, in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
According to police, the murder was the result of a botched robbery at gunpoint. Brad Bauman, a spokesman for the Rich family, said that neither the victim’s wallet nor his other possessions had been taken.
The Washington Post reported that police told the Rich family that a security camera from a convenience store nearby captured “a grainy image of their son collapsing and the feet or legs of two other people.”
WRC-TV indicated that Rich had been shot twice in the back.
Although still talkative when taken to a hospital, Rich later died of complications.
After Rich’s death, rumors circulated that the killing may have been politically motivated and that Rich had possibly been involved in the internal DNC email leaks.
Freedom of Information requests, alleged FBI obstructionism
According to court documents, on September 1, 2017, attorney Ty Clevenger submitted a Freedom of Information request to the FBI seeking to “obtain information on Seth Rich’s involvement in the DNC e-mail leaks.”
The request included, but was not limited to, “any records or correspondence resulting from any investigation of [Seth Rich’s] murder.”
The FBI section chief in charge of records, David M. Hardy, stated on September 19, 2017, “We were unable to identify main file records responsive to the FOIA.”
Clevenger, frustrated, stated that the “FBI is hiding documents about murdered Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich … so this morning I requested a criminal investigation into the cover-up.”
Subsequent legal actions produced evidence that the FBI indeed had in its possession documentation pertaining to Rich.
In 2020, Brian Huddleston of Texas, represented by Clevenger, filed another FOIA request, nearly identical to Clevenger’s previous request, this time prompting an acknowledgment that the FBI “possessed over 20,000 pages of potentially relevant material.”
The FBI later claimed that “the compact disc containing images of Seth Rich’s personal computer was provided to the FBI by a local law enforcement agency.”
In September, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant, an Obama nominee, ruled that the FBI must render information from Rich’s laptop unto Huddleston and found that the “FBI improperly withheld this information under FOIA.”
Mazzant also wrote that had “it not been for Huddleston’s persistence, it is likely that the Government’s failure to locate over 20,000 pages of potentially responsive records would have gone unnoticed.”
Although Huddleston secured the right to see the Rich documents, it is unclear whether he will have a chance to get through even a significant portion in his lifetime.
Clevenger told the Epoch Times, “After dealing with the FBI for five years, I now assume that the FBI is lying to me unless and until it proves otherwise. The FBI is desperately trying to hide records about Seth Rich, and that begs the question of why.”
After Rich’s murder, various rumors circulated.
One claim, denounced by Vox as an “intense right-wing conspiracy theor[y],” suggested that Rich had something to do with the internal DNC email leaks published by WikiLeaks, which appeared to reveal that the committee had conspired with the Clinton campaign to work against Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.).
Proponents of this theory were denounced by Rich’s family in a number of instances sued.
NPR reported that, according to this narrative, Rich was a disgruntled Sanders supporter who had “secretly stolen thousands of emails and given them to Wikileaks to try to stop Hillary Clinton from winning the the presidency” and that “Clinton and the Democrats had arranged his killing.”
Julian Assange appeared to advance this theory when he referenced Rich’s murder in conversation with the Dutch current affairs program “Nieuwsuur.”
Assange said, “Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get [Wikileaks] material and often very significant risks. As a 27-year-old that works for the DNC who was shot in the back, murdered, just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington … our sources take risks and they become concerned to see things occurring like that.”
The interviewer suggested it had just been a robbery, to which Assange replied, “No.”
Wikileaks later announced a $20,000 reward for “information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.”
Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate the email leaks on May 17, 2017.
Mueller’s 2019 special counsel report claimed that the Russian government was responsible for leaking the emails online and that Rich had not been involved.
Assange vehemently denied these allegations.
The New York Times reported that Mueller’s report took aim at Assange “for falsely implying that Mr. Rich was somehow involved in the dissemination of the emails.”
Despite suggestions that Russians may have been behind the leaks, Assange continued to contend that the hack had been an “inside job.”
The New York times had previously reported in May 2017 that Rod Wheeler, a private investigator and former D.C. metropolitan police detective hired by the Rich family, had claimed there was “tangible evidence” that Rich had communicated with WikiLeaks before his death.
Wheeler quickly walked back this claim on CNN, and the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia underscored that it had been “unfounded.”