From top: George Gibney; irvin Muchnik and the opening of his memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to the US Department of Homeland Security’s “supplemental” motion for summary judgement, submitted to Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer on September 15 by Mr Muchnick’s attorney Roy Gordet
Former Irish swimming coach George Gibney. was charged with 27 counts of indecency against young swimmers and of carnal knowledge of girls under the age of 15 in April, 1993 – but sought and won a High Court judicial review in 1994 that quashed all the charges against him.
The judicial review was secured after a landmark Supreme Court decision, during which Gibney’s senior counsel Patrick Gageby argued that the delay in initiating the prosecution against Gibney infringed his right to a fair trial. Mr Gageby’s sister Susan Denham was on the bench of the Supreme Court that day.
Gibney subsequently left Ireland, first for Scotland and then America.
You may also recall the efforts by American journalist Irvin Muchnick who has been attempting to obtain the US Department of Homeland Security’s immigration file on Gibney – in an effort to understand how Gibney was able to get a visa, and then a green card, to live in the States, given the previous charges against him.
In July 2015, following his FOI request to the US authorities for the file, Mr Muchnick received just four pages of Gibney’s file.
On April 17, 2016, Justine McCarthy in the Sunday Times, reported that further documents released to Mr Muchnick showed Gardaí gave Gibney a certificate of character – issued on January 20, 1992 – to support his application for an American visa.
The certificate given to Mr Muchnick was reported to be partially redacted with the name of the issuing officer and its contents obscured.
According to the Murphy Inquiry – which was set up to look at abuse in swimming in 1998 – a parent from a club other than Trojan Swimming Club, where Gibney coached, was told by an assistant coach of Trojan in November 1991 that the gardai and the ISPCC were informed of the allegations in relation to Gibney.
However, later the ISPCC said it had no record of any such complaint in 1991 or in 1992. And, the Murphy Inquiry states the first record on the Garda file is dated December 15, 1992.
Mr Muchnick is still trying to obtain Gibney’s full immigration file and, in May, he appeared before Judge Charles Breyer, a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, about the matter.
Mr Muchnik wants to know who assisted or sponsored Mr Gibney in successfully attaining a Green Card. More than 100 American swimming coaches have been jailed and/or banned for life from the sport in the past few years for offences against boys and girls.
At that May hearing, Judge Breyer said he would review in camera (privately) disputed documents from George Gibney’s US Citizenship and Immigration Services file, and render a decision.
On September 16, Mr Muchnick’s attorney Roy Gordet submitted a memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to the defendant’s “supplemental” motion for summary judgement to Judge Breyer.
Essentially, Mr Muchnick is trying to get 20 documents, which amount to 43 pages, of Mr Gibney’s immigration file.
In his submission, Mr Muchnick’s attorney Roy Gordet argues…
“…the Court is justified, based on in camera review, to order release of the now only 20 withheld documents in dispute, or of appropriately segregable content therefrom. Such an outcome would meet the immense and justified public curiosity, on two continents, of the American government’s role in enabling the movements of former Irish Olympic swimming coach George Gibney, one of the most notorious and disgraced figures in all global sports. In no way would such disclosure abrogate legitimate privacy exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act.”
…at its core this FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] case presents the Court with the need to balance the classic countervailing policies concerning how much secrecy a government agency requires to perform its function properly and the privacy interests of an individual who is the subject of an agency inquiry, on the one hand, versus on the other hand a legitimate journalistic investigation into the operations of that agency…
…one of Plaintiff’s [Muchnick’s] various goals in obtaining the documents and information that is the subject of his FOIA request, as stated in his Complaint and in his earlier Memorandum at page 17, is to shed light on how the US Immigration Service permitted a person with a known criminal history to enter the United States.
Should it have been prevented, and could it have been prevented? So, on one side there is this significant inquiry concerning the public interest of an isolated case as well as the implications about who generally is allowed into our country today and in the future, and on the other side, we have the purported privacy rights of a non-citizen whose sordid history has already been exposed in international media so who clearly has diminished privacy rights in these documents and in this information.
…Document 37 is a “Police Certificate” related to Gibney. How could there be a need to protect the privacy of an Irish police person or bureaucrat that plausibly might have written about criminal files of an Irish national and sent the report based on a mere request from the subject individual?
Document 40 is an “Offer of Employment”. What privacy interest, and of whom, is being protected by this refusal to disclose the details of this employment offer? Moreover, the existence of an employment offer as part of an immigrant file or application is a strong clue that Gibney was admitted to this country under a special visa category, and examination of the USCIS standards in this connection fit precisely the definition of “pierc[ing] the veil of administrative secrecy” and “open[ing] agency action to the light of public scrutiny.”
Document 32 is an “administrative decision” related to a “third party” but inexplicably refuses to disclose which administrative agency and who is the mysterious “third party”? It is the government’s burden to “disclose as much information as possible without thwarting the purpose of the exemption claimed.”
…For Documents 24, 25 and 26 Defendant makes the ridiculous claim that they contain information that will enable others to circumvent the immigration laws. If the information is so general that it would have such widespread applicability to so many potential immigrants, it defies logic that the information is so private and confidential, as also claimed by Defendant.
Or that there is so much gold in those hills for potential malfeasors to use to their advantage from documents generated around the time that Gibney was granted entry into the United States, something on the order of twenty years ago. Clearly laws, practices and technologies have significantly changed since that time.
Indeed, this gets to the crux of Plaintiff’s inquiry: what practices and procedures were in place at that time that Gibney was able to gain entry?
Johnny Watterson, in The Irish Times, reports:
An oral hearing into the release of documents regarding how Irish swimming coach George Gibney was able to acquire a green card for the USA will be heard next month.
…Original material released indicated there was a letter appearing to offer Gibney a job in swimming in the US.
Although the name and organisation of the sender and almost all of the letter’s content is redacted, what remains is “Dear George,” followed below by “… would be very interested in your services as coach to there [sic] team”.
It is not known if the letter is from an American team or club, or from an Irish citizen who was trying to broker the deal.
Oral arguments are expected to be heard by Senior US District Court Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco on October 22nd. Judge Breyer had originally rejected the government’s motion to withhold almost all of the Gibney file from public scrutiny.
Read Mr Muchnick’s submission in full here