Why is the FBI protecting Superman's civilian identity?

In last week's Superman #18, the eponymous hero held a press conference to reveal his identity to the public. Comic book continuity is ever-shifting, of course, and the connection between Superman and Clark Kent has been known or exposed by other people before, just as the genie will someday be placed back in the bottle once again. In this particular context, Superman was inspired to come clean after learning about the lies and deceptions of his birth father, Jor-El (who also used to be dead, but now is not, because comics). This revelation also comes on the heels of an epic crossover that shattered the acronym-happy intelligence community of the DC Universe with some other truths and justices.

This curiously came on the heels of the Inspector General's report on the origins of the FBI investigation into the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. The results of this investigation were as much of a political Rorschach test as anything is these days. But one thing it did reinforce was the FBI's overconfidence in its own self-righteous status quo enforcement, for better and for worse.

While there was (unsurprisingly, IMHO) no political bias found in the FBI's motives, the IG report did note a handful of oversights and omissions that had been along the way—a detail that the President's stalwart defenders have eagerly jumped on. For anyone who's ever paid attention to anything the FBI has ever done, however, this all came across as the same standard over-zealous stuff the organization's also done—again, for better, and for worse.

Case in point? Superman.

In the fall of 2016, the public records journalism organization MuckRock put in a FOIA request to the FBI for information pertaining to the Church of Scientology. Among the many documents they received, one was a script for a play written by the Church's PR team that involved a trip to the offices of the fictional Daily Planet newspaper and a cameo by the Man of Steel himself.

Or, well, presumably that's what it says. Because Clark Kent's name was conveniently redacted (along with Jimmy Olsen's), under the b(6) and b(7)(c) FOIA privacy exemptions:

Exemption (b)(6) permits the government to withhold all information about individuals in "personnel and medical files and similar files" when the disclosure of such information "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

Exemption (b)(7)(C) provides protection for personal information in law enforcement records the disclosure of which "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

This is just…dumb. But it does reinforce that there's sadly nothing remarkable in the FBI's sloppy over-seriousness in anything else they do. As MuckRock's Emma Best told Gizmodo at the time:

It's easy to laugh at this, and it is laughable, but it also highlights how bad the FBI is when it comes to FOIA. There are no explanations for this aside from gross incompetence, negligence, and/or bad faith. Even if this were an innocent mistake, the slightest amount of due diligence and research would have shown that the Daily Planet is fictional. Admiral Hardy's FOIA staff at FBI couldn't be bothered.

This is the same FBI who believed that the most radical and dangerous thing about the Black Panther Party was their free breakfast for kids program. And yet they're also concerned about the personal privacy of a fictional superhero. Of course they were over-zealous about some parts of that Russia investigation; it would have been more biased if they hadn't followed these standard self-important operating procedures. At least in that case, they were on the path towards using their typical abuse of power responsibly.

Image via Tech Sgt. Samuel King Jr. / US Department of Defense