Awan v. DOJ, No. 10-1100, 2014 WL 197840 (D.D.C. Jan. 17, 2014) (Howell, J.)

Date: 
Friday, January 17, 2014
Re: Request for records concerning requester Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment
  • Exemption 3, Sealed Records:  The court "grant[s] summary judgment to the defendants on their withholding of the storage locker search warrant affidavit since no improper withholding has occurred."  The court explains that defendant supplied the court with information "clarifying that the sealing order with regard to the search warrant application for the two storage lockers 'was intended to prohibit the disclosure of the sealed documents, including the FBI affidavit, under the [FOIA].'"  However, regarding an application for a material witness warrant, "the Court finds that the defendants have not established the Southern District's sealing order as a proper basis for withholding the over decade old material witness warrant affidavit under the FOIA."  The court explains that "defendants have not produced an order clarifying the sealing of this document" and "must demonstrate by other means that 'the court issued the seal with the intent to prohibit the DOJ from disclosing [the information] as long as the seal remains in effect.'"
  • Exemption 3:  The court holds that "defendants are ordered to release only such information contained in the material witness warrant affidavit that was withheld solely under Exemption 3."  The court explains that "'the Government can reveal the names of material witnesses [if not exempt under other exemptions] without revealing any information about their status as grand jury witnesses.'"  Additionally, the court explains that "background information about the September 11, 2001 events that, even if grand jury material, is so 'sufficiently widely known that it has lost its character as Rule 6(e) material.'"
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court "finds that the defendants have properly justified redacting under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C) the name of a third-party individual who provided information to the FBI during the criminal investigation, but will address only the latter Exemption since the responsive records were compiled for law enforcement purposes."  Additionally, the court finds that the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation "erroneously shifted the plaintiff's burden to the defendants and hereby sets aside this part of the [Report and Recommendation]."  The court explains that "plaintiff did not claim, let alone show, that the FBI had 'officially acknowledg[ed]' the existence of the informants and confidential sources he claims testified at his trial or that those witnesses were the same individuals whose names were redacted in any document released to the plaintiff."
  • Exemption 7(D):  The court "finds that the defendants have properly justified redacting the name of a confidential informant under Exemption 7(D)."  The court explains that "defendants redacted the name based on an express grant of confidentiality . . . but, given the nature of the crimes at issue, they could have reasonably justified the redaction based also on an implied grant of confidentiality."
Topic: 
District Court
Exemption 3
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7D
Sealed Documents
Updated August 6, 2014