Politics

Federal Aviation Administration accidentally releases information on Epstein flights

In March 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration denied a request by Business Insider for all the agency’s flight records associated with several private jets owned by Jeffrey Epstein. The agency then inadvertently mailed Insider some of Epstein’s flight records. 

The new records showed data on 2,300 flights between four private jets reportedly owned by Epstein from 1998 to 2020. Many of them appeared in Insider’s preexisting searchable database of all known flights related to Epstein.

The records that the FAA accidentally released also revealed 704 previously unknown flights by Epstein’s planes. Hundreds of those trips were from a three-year gap in the public record, between 2013 and 2016.

Business Insider first asked the FAA’s flight records connected to Epstein in January 2020, and filed the request under the Freedom of Information Act. The Insider thought their request would have a chance of being successful as the agency released its entire database of U.S.-based flights to The Wall Street Journal in 2011.

When the FAA denied the request in March, the agency said that “the responsive records originate from an investigative file,” so they were exempt from disclosure. The FAA cited Exemption 7(A), which was designed by Congress to protect records that were “compiled for law enforcement” and “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceeding.”

While the accidentally released records do not have the names of passengers, they could offer information about the whereabouts of Epstein’s closest contacts.

Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s ex-girlfriend who allegedly secured children for Epstein, is currently on trial over sex-trafficking charges this month. Maxwell was frequently a passenger aboard Epstein’s flights over the years.

An FAA spokesperson told Insider, “Flight data is typically considered to be releasable information,” but the agency chose not to comment on the accidental disclosure of the flight records or other matters related to investigations. 

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: FORBES

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