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Planned Parenthood building ablaze in Knoxville, TennesseeYouTube/Screenshot

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (LifeSiteNews) — Pressed by U.S. Representative Tim Burchett (R-TN) to answer two FOIA requests, the FBI has responded that it plans to withhold records related to the fire that destroyed Knoxville’s Planned Parenthood center until April of 2026.

On December 31, 2021, fire destroyed the Planned Parenthood center in Knoxville, Tennessee; within days, the Knoxville Fire Department determined that the fire had been intentionally set. At the time of the fire, the building had been closed for renovation and expansion.

On November 1, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) posthumously named Mark Reno, a white Catholic male, as the arsonist. The same DOJ memo stated that Reno died in the custody of U.S. Marshals on August 15, 2022, while awaiting trial on unrelated charges.

This journalist has made two requests to the FBI for records related to the Planned Parenthood fire in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The first request, made on April 11, 2023, was for a single record – a video of Mark Reno surreptitiously recorded by an investigator for the Knoxville Fire Department on April 26, 2022. After more than 90 days, the FBI admitted having the video but denied the request on the grounds that releasing it would constitute “an unwarranted invasion of privacy” for Reno and unduly disclose law enforcement methods. The journalist appealed this denial to the DOJ’s Office of Information Policy. After more than 60 days, no decision has been made yet on this appeal.

The second FOIA request, made on August 4, 2023, was for all records related to the fire. The FBI has granted this request, but has not yet published any responsive records. Acting FBI Deputy Assistant Director James Klipfer issued a report to Rep. Burchett’s office that stated: “The request’s estimated date of completion is April 2026.”

READ: An open letter to Rep. Tim Burchett: Demand the FBI turn over footage of alleged Planned Parenthood arsonist

The FBI has also instructed local Knoxville agencies to withhold records related to this fire.

Under Tennessee law, this journalist has requested transcripts of relevant 911 calls. Responding with a phone call on July 24, 2023, Michael Mays, records and research coordinator for Knox County Emergency Communications, stated that he had collected the records, but that they were on hold per instructions from the FBI’s Knoxville field office. Mays further stated that he had requested permission to release the records but had received no response.

This journalist has also requested records from the City of Knoxville. Responding on behalf of the city, Eric Vreeland, Deputy Director of Communications, gave a similar reply by email on September 13, 2023: “The City has gathered its records and is awaiting word from federal authorities about the status of their investigation.” This journalist recently filed a Petition for Judicial Review with the Knox County Chancery Court in order to obtain responsive records from the City of Knoxville.

READ: Pro-lifer petitions court after she was denied access to records on Knoxville Planned Parenthood fire

Several facts of the case argue against Reno as the arsonist. Investigators for the Knoxville Fire Department determined that the fire began inside the building; no explanation has been given for how Reno gained entry. This journalist interviewed the original 911 caller who, unprompted, described the man who fled the scene in a red truck as “a white man with long hair.” Reno was clean-cut. The Knoxville Fire Department once suspected Reno because his vehicle matched the description from the original 911 caller. However, they later dismissed the possibility and were surprised by the FBI’s accusation on November 1, 2022.

Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi (PPTNM) may use federal Title X funds to rebuild in Knoxville. The Biden administration has routed Title X funding around the state of Tennessee and made grants directly to other regional Planned Parenthood organizations; these, in turn, plan to make sub-grants to PPTNM.