First party request for plaintiff's alien file and all records concerning him
Granting USCIS's motion for summary judgment
- Litigation Considerations: The court rejects plaintiff's argument that USCIS cannot invoke Exemption 7(E) the first time in its reply brief. The court comments that "[d]efendants raised this exemption prior to oral argument on this motion, and so" the concerns regarding late assertion of exemptions "are not implicated."
- Exemption 5: The court holds that USCIS properly applied Exemption 5 to a series of emails relevant to the adjudication of plaintiff's naturalization application, an interoffice memorandum regarding this application, as well as a statement of findings that did "not provide a final or binding decision on how the field office should dispose of [plaintiff's] naturalization application." The court declares that all of these documents fall within the deliberative process privilege. The court finds the documents are pre-decisional as they are "intended to 'facilitate an identifiable final agency decision' - - plaintiff's naturalization application." The court finds that they are also deliberative since there are "recommendatory in nature." Noting that "any opinions provided in these documents appear . . . to reflect the subjective opinion of the individual author and not of the agency itself," the court rejects plaintiff's contention that the documents reflect "non privileged 'secret' or 'working' agency law."
- Exemption 7(E): The court finds that the documents were properly withheld under Exemption 7(E) because they "contain content setting forth agency techniques for vetting subjects that might pose a national security threat, as well as procedures applicable to adjudicating applications by such individuals," and "these techniques and procedures serve law enforcement purposes."
- Segregability: The court also finds that it was appropriate to withhold the documents in full. It notes that "[t]o the extent there is any purely factual or otherwise non-exempt material in these documents . . . such material is 'inextricably intertwined' with exempt material, such that disclosure would 'compromise the confidentiality' of protected information."