The Star News Network Files Legal Action Against FBI in Seeking Covenant School Killer’s Manifesto

The Star News Network’s attorneys have filed a new case with the U.S. Department of Justice demanding the Federal Bureau of Investigation turn over Nashville mass shooter Audrey Elizabeth Hale’s manifesto.

The Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) on Wednesday filed an administrative appeal with the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy after the FBI twice rejected The Star News Network’s Freedom of Information Act requests, seeking the expedited release of the documents.

“No one is above the law, not even the FBI. WILL is proud to stand with hardworking journalists at The Star News Network, who are demanding information related to the recent mass shooting in Nashville,” said Dan Lennington, deputy counsel for the public interest law firm. “Today’s administrative appeal is just the first step, and we will exhaust all legal options to seek information that belongs to the public.”

The Justice Department has 20 business days to respond to the appeal, which seeks the immediate release of the manifesto.

Nearly a month after Hale — a 28-year-old woman who identified as a transgender male — stormed into The Covenant Presbyterian School and shot and killed three 9-year-olds, an administrator, a substitute teacher, and a custodian before being shot dead by Nashville police officers, the killer’s motives remain unknown to the public.

During a press conference on the day of the the shootings, Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake did not provide a specific motive for the attack, but said “we have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident.” Law Enforcement officials noted Hale, a former student at the school, drew maps and surveilled the property.

Local law enforcement officials and the FBI have yet to release the manifesto.

The Star News Network has sought the documents — including journal entries, notes, plans, and other writings — from the FBI through two Freedom of Information Act requests. Each request asked the agency to expedite the release. In both instances, the FBI quickly denied the requests, ultimately asserting that “there is a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding relevant to” the requested records. Releasing the documents, the FBI said, “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.”

“Therefore, your request is being administratively closed,” an agency official informed The Star News Network.

The FBI has not explained what “law enforcement proceeding” could possibly exist and how releasing the manifesto would “interfere” with such a proceeding, the administrative appeal states.

Citing several court cases, WILL argues the FBI has no basis to deny the release of the records. In short, the shooter is dead.

“Under the language of the statute, there are no ‘enforcement proceedings’ contemplated,” the appeal states. “The shooter is dead. No crime is being investigated that would lead to a criminal prosecution. Therefore, disclosure would not ‘harm the Government’s case in court.’”

Public officials, too, have called for the release of the manifesto.

State Rep. Tim Burchett, (R-Tenn.) told The New York Post he believes the FBI is behind the delay of the local release of the documents, saying the news was “disappointing” and calling for records to be released to grieving loved ones as well as members of Congress.

The manifesto “could maybe tell us a little bit about what’s going on inside of her head,” he added. “I think that would answer a lot of questions.”

The delay has led to speculation, including theories that President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice is playing politics with the investigation — and the records attached to it. As someone who identified as transgender, Hale doesn’t fit the left’s usual narrative of a school shooter, critics say. LGBTQ+ groups early on warned the release of manifesto could lead to serious consequences.

“It should not be published,” Jordan Budd, the executive director of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE), told Newsweek. “The focus should be on how this was able to happen in the first place. There should not be such easy access to deadly weaponry.”

But as the appeal notes, the FBI’s own recent history demonstrates why there is no legitimate basis to withhold a manifesto from a deceased assailant. The agency has routinely turned over such documents after other mass shootings.

“On October 24, 2022, Orlando Harris killed two and injured seven people in St. Louis. FBI investigated the incident with other law enforcement authorities. The very next day, October 25, CNN obtained a copy of and reported on the details of his manifesto,” the legal action states.

“On November 22, 2022, Andre Marcus Bing killed seven people and injured four at a Walmart Supercenter in Chesapeake, Virginia. FBI investigated the incident with other law enforcement authorities. Within three days, the New York Times obtained the killer’s manifesto.”

The FBI has a proud history of releasing manifestos. In 1995, the agency famously released Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto to the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Penthouse magazine.

Nashville police also denied The Star News Network’s request for Hale’s manifesto, because the case ‘remains open,’ despite the fact that Hale died in the March 27 incident.

On Wednesday, the police department said it has entered a “stage” of considering how to release the controversial documents.

“The investigation is now at the stage that we are beginning the close review/preparation process for the public release of written material,” Metro Nashville PD spokeswoman Brooke Reese wrote in an email to The Tennessee Star.

“The release of these records is critical to understanding the mind and actions of a mass murderer, and can help form public policy to most effectively protect American citizens,” said Michael Patrick Leahy, Editor-in-Chief of The Star News Network and CEO of parent company Star News Digital Media, Inc., headquartered in Nashville. He is one of two appellants in the case.

“We believe the public’s right to know is so important that we are willing to challenge the most powerful law enforcement agency in America.”

Read The Star News Network appeal:

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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Audrey Hale” by Metro Nashville Police Department



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One Thought to “The Star News Network Files Legal Action Against FBI in Seeking Covenant School Killer’s Manifesto”

  1. trefiner

    As a homeowner in the neighborhood of the Covenant school, I am outraged at the politically motivated slow walking of the manifesto release. As noted in this article the transgender lobby wants to block the release of the manifesto in fear of bad publicity. It has been shown that there have been multiple mass shootings by transgenders. Earlier this month there was a transgender who was prevented from their planned mass killing in Colorado Springs. The release of this manifesto is vital for finding ways to prevent another school mass murder as opposed to just immediately calling for more gun laws.