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Cook v. NARA, No. 11-cv-8624, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14194, (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 30, 2013) (Duffy, J.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Re: Request for records concerning "research requests made on behalf of former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney," for Presidential records also known as "special access requests" made during the time period when public access to Presidential records is limited under the Presidential Records Act Disposition: Granting NARA's motion for summary judgment
  • Exemption 6: The court finds that the NARA properly applied Exemption 6 to withhold documentation of requests for access to records received by the George W. Bush Presidential Library since February 1, 2009 and requests for access to the records of former Vice President Dick Cheney since February 1, 2009 as well as related correspondence regarding those requests. The court first decides that the "special access requests" are similar files because they are "detailed Government records on an individual which can be identified as applying to that individual." The court finds that "[b]ecause the research requests contain the names and potentially the contact information of the researchers who have been designated by the former President and Vice President, the records that [plaintiff] requests can be identified as applying to those researchers, who are not NARA agency officials." The records can also be "identified as applying to the former President and Vice President." The court then concludes that "given the Supreme Court's broad interpretation of the term, the records at issue here are 'similar files.'" Applying the balancing test required under Exemption 6, the court finds that Exemption 6 was properly invoked. The court finds that "the former President and Vice President's research designees have an obvious privacy interest [in] their names and contact information, which evidently appear on the special access requests." The court also is persuaded that former President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney also have substantial privacy interests in the documents. They "have a great privacy interest" in "not having the subject about which they think and gather information being involuntarily broadcast to the general public." The court notes that former President Bush and Vice President Cheney have a "time-limited monopoly on certain information to encourage the preparation of their memoirs." Accordingly, "their research in particular has important privacy interests at stake." In addition, "researchers have an expectation of confidentiality when they conduct research at NARA facilities." The court balances these substantial interests against the fact that "[t]he American public stands to gain little from knowing what the former officials are researching during the time period protected by the [Presidential Records Act]." Accordingly, it grants NARA summary judgment with regard to its use of Exemption 6 to withhold the records requested.
District Court
Exemption 6
Updated August 6, 2014