Skip to main content

Carpezzi v. DOJ, No. 21-180, 2023 WL 2648166 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 27, 2023) (Badalamenti, J.)

Date

Carpezzi v. DOJ, No. 21-180, 2023 WL 2648166 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 27, 2023) (Badalamenti, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff

Disposition:  Granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that “[t]he Department of Justice satisfied its burden by submitting the Declaration of . . . the Chief of [the Record/Information Dissemination Section (“RIDS”)], [who] is familiar with the procedures followed by the FBI in responding to FOIA requests, and was aware of the FBI's handling of [plaintiff’s] FOIA request.”  “The Court finds that [defendant’s] declaration was ‘relatively detailed, nonconclusory, and submitted in good faith.’”  The court relates that “[defendant] described the [the Central Records System (“CRS”)] . . . .”  “[Defendant] described RIDS’s general search efforts when [plaintiff’s] FOIA request was submitted . . . .”  “[Defendant] also explained that because [plaintiff’s] request sought information about himself, such information would reasonably be expected to appear in the CRS via the index search methodology [used here].”
     
  • Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records:  The court holds that “to the extent that [plaintiff] requests that the FBI create a complete transcript of his January 2016 conversation at FBI Headquarters in Den[v]er . . . the FBI is not obligated to create a transcript if one does not exist.”
     
  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  “The Court finds that the DOJ has successfully established that the two records at issue were compiled for law enforcement purposes, such that they meet the threshold for Exemption 7(C).”  “[Defendant] explains that the FBI creates an FD-71 during the submission of a complaint of reported criminal activity, and therefore, the FD-71 was compiled to capture [plaintiff’s] allegation of illegal activity and thus compiled for law enforcement purposes.”  “As to the letter in response to the request for information, [defendant] explains that the FBI responds to official requests for information from law enforcement agencies ‘as part of its duty to assist law enforcement.’”  “The Court finds that the FBI’s investigatory activities giving rise to both the FD-71 and the letter to state law enforcement are related to the enforcement of federal laws and that the nexus between the FBI’s investigation and its law enforcement duties is based on information sufficient to support at least a colorable claim of their rationality – the investigation related to the FD-71 was based on [plaintiff’s] own complaint, and the letter to state law enforcement was assisting state authorities in an ongoing investigation.”
     
  • Exemption 6 & Exemption 7(C):  First, “because the Court finds that the FBI's redactions are properly exempted pursuant to Exemption 7(C), the Court shall not address the Exemption 6 standard.”  Second, “[b]alancing the private interest involved against the public interest (ensuring an informed citizenry, checking against corruption, and holding the government accountable, . . . the Court finds that the privacy interests of the identities of the FBI Special Agents, the Chief Division Counsel, and the name of the State Law Enforcement Employee outweigh any purported public interest that would be served by releasing their names.”  The court relates that defendant determined that release of an “identity in connection with a particular investigation ‘could trigger hostility.’”  “Accordingly, requiring the FBI to release such names would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under Exemption 7(C).”
     
  • Exemption 7(E):  The court holds that “the sensitive investigation file number and the database identifier were properly redacted from the disclosed documents and withheld from disclosure.”  The court relates that “[w]ith respect to the file number, [defendant] explains that FBI file numbers contain three components:  (1) the CRS file classification number; (2) the abbreviation of the FBI office of origin (‘OO’) initiating the file; and (3) the assigned individual case file number for that particular subject matter.”  “[Defendant] further explains that ‘[m]any of the FBI's classification numbers are known to the public, which makes disclosure of the non-public classification numbers even more telling.’”  “Additionally, according to [defendant], ‘releasing non-public FBI file classification numbers would reveal critical information about non-public investigative techniques and procedures, and provide criminals and foreign adversaries with the ability to discern the types of highly sensitive investigative strategies the FBI pursues whenever such file classification numbers are present.’”  “The second component, the two-letter office of origin code also ‘provide[s] critical information about where and how the FBI detected particular criminal behavior or national security threats, and reveal key pieces about the FBI's non-public investigations or intelligence or evidence gathering sources and methods.’”  “Moreover,’[r]evealing this information could also provide significant information about the FBI’s failure to detect certain types of criminal behavior.’”  “Finally, with respect to the assigned string of numbers for the particular subject matter under investigation, [defendant] explains that ‘[r]eleasing these singular file numbers would provide criminals and foreign adversaries with a tracking mechanism by which they can place particular files, and thus, investigations, within the context of larger FBI investigate efforts’ and, finally, that releasing all three components ‘would provide criminal and foreign adversaries with an idea of how FBI investigations may be interrelated and, potentially, when, why, and how the FBI pursues or pursued different investigations.’”  “With respect to the database identifier, [defendant] indicates that revealing the identity of this database (1) ‘would give criminal insight into the available tools and resources the FBI uses to conduct criminal and national security investigation,’ (2) ‘would reveal the nature of its utility to FBI investigators,’ and (3) ‘could jeopardize the FB’s investigative function by revealing exactly where the FBI stores and from where it obtains valuable investigative data.’”  “[T]he Court finds that the DOJ has made an adequate showing to support the redaction of this information.”
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7(E)
Exemption 7, Threshold
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records
Updated May 1, 2023