CNN sues Blaine County for refusing to release Bergdahl record

HAILEY, Idaho (KBOI) - A judge will review a 15-year-old document, somehow connected to the Bergdahls, to decide whether it should be released. The Blaine County Sheriff's Office withheld the law enforcement record from November 1999, which CNN requested last month.

Sheriff Gene Ramsey released three documents to the news organization but refused to release a fourth, citing an "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." CNN is now suing the county.

Tim Graves, the attorney representing Blaine County, handed over the document to Judge Robert Elgee at the end of an hour-long hearing Monday afternoon.

"I believe once the court reviews the record, it will become very apparent why and how it would constitute an 'unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,'" Graves said.

At the time, Graves was the only one in the room who had knowledge of the contents of the document. Deb Kristensen, the attorney representing CNN, said it was an "inactive law enforcement record" that should be open for inspection.

"Active ones are protected for a variety of good reasons," Kristensen said. "Inactive ones, decisions that are made and are long done, should be open to the public."

Many documents that government agencies keep are public, but certain records are exempt under Idaho law. Graves said little about the document but welcomed the judge's review.

According to the complaint, CNN requested on June 11 "all documents related to law enforcement activities involving members of the Bergadhl family (Robert, Jani, Bowe and Sky) and/or reports at the Bergdahl residence" since 1986. In a letter to CNN dated June 11, Sheriff Ramsey said four reports fall under the news organization's request. He released three: a report of shots fired at a Bergdahl vehicle in 1998, a "report of a civil matter involving unrelated children at the Bergdahl home" in January 2013 and a road rage incident involving Bob and Jani in August 2013.

Ramsey said one dated November 4, 1999, is "exempt from disclosure under Idaho Code 9-335(1)(c)." In a June 20 letter to CNN, Ramsey wrote: "After consultation with our attorney, we cannot in good conscience release even a redacted report as we have been advised that doing so would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

"We, the news media, the public, are entitled to know what's going on with their government," Kristensen said. "That's why we have a presumption in the code that these records are presumptively open."

CNN is not required to provide a reason for requesting the records, although Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey has made national headlines in recent months. He was swapped nearly two months ago for five Taliban members after nearly five years in captivity.

Judge Elgee said he will issue a written decision after taking a look at the 1999 law enforcement record related to the Bergdahls.