Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) v. Department of Defense

CCR v. Department of Defense is a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking the release of documents from the United States government regarding its knowledge of and role in the deadly May 2010 attack by the Israeli military on a flotilla of six vessels in international waters. The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was seeking to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza and break the Israeli blockade. Among the nine civilians killed was 18-year-old U.S. citizen Furkan Doğan, who was shot several times as he was filming the 4:00 a.m. raid and then shot in the face at point-blank range as he lay wounded. This case and its accompanying advocacy are part of CCR’s body of work challenging the United States’ support of the Israeli government despite its grave and continuous human rights violations against Palestinians and Palestinian rights activists.

On June 30, 2010, one month after the attack, CCR filed FOIA requests with eight U.S. departments and agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Department of State, the Navy, the U.S. European Command, and the Department of Justice. The FOIA requests sought information on what, if any, communications were made between the U.S. government and Israel prior to and after the attack; what, if any, information the U.S. shared before or after with Israel about any of the U.S. citizens aboard; what was done to secure the release of detained citizens; and what is being done to return property seized from U.S. citizens and other passengers and to ensure that such property, which includes evidence for any investigations into the attack, is not tampered with or destroyed. CCR also filed a FOIA request regarding communications with other countries and with organizations such as NATO in relation to the attack on the flotilla and the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Last, CCR requested information about U.S. policy towards Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has been found to be a form of collective punishment by various representatives of the United Nations.

Nearly 11 months after the FOIA requests were filed, only two agencies had produced any records, and their responses were wholly inadequate. In response, CCR filed this lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, which has resulted in the release of thousands of pages of documents that demonstrate how the U.S. government shielded the Israeli military from accountability for this deadly and unlawful attack. Guides to the documents we have received can be found below. CCR has been engaged in intensive negotiations with the government, resulting in the ongoing release of records previously withheld and from offices that either failed to search for records or conducted inadequate searches.