American Civil Liberties Union of North Cal. v. FBI, No. 10-3759, 2015 WL 1346680 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 23, 2015) (Seeborg, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning FBI's investigation and surveillance of Muslim communities in Northern California
Disposition: Denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; granting in part plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
- Exemption 7, Threshold: The court holds that "[b]ecause the FBI's explanation of the link between its law enforcement activities and the particular documents withheld fails to meet the 'rational nexus' standard as it is applied in the Ninth Circuit, the FBI is altogether precluded from withholding information under Exemption 7." The court notes that "the FBI employs many various techniques to combat unlawful activity, some of which, if publicly disclosed, would undermine their effectiveness." However, the court finds "[t]hat this may well be true does not, without more, permit the FBI to apply Exemption 7 to withhold or redact information about such tactics, however." "Neither [defendant's] declarations nor the FBI's pleadings tether the activities the withheld documents concern to the enforcement of any particular law." Moreover, the court finds that "[t]he FBI's refrain at oral argument that many of the withheld documents do not relate to particular investigations, and thus cannot be linked to any particular provision of law, only serves to emphasize the point that Exemption 7 is not the appropriate umbrella under which to shield these documents from public view."