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Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. Office of the Dir. of Nat'l Intelligence, No. 12-1282, 2013 WL 5548809 (D.D.C. October 9, 2013) (Boasberg, J.)

Re: Request for guidelines describing how National Counterterrorism Center retrieved and safeguarded information from other federal agencies Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Pleadings:  The court finds that defendant, "has, for the most part, met each of [the requirements for describing a withholding of information]."  The court notes that "the Declaration could not have described the documents perfectly; to do so would defeat the very purpose of FOIA's exemptions."
  • Exemption 3:  The Court finds that information was correctly withheld pursuant to Exemption 3.  The court explains that defendant's use of Exemption 3 is "based on the protection of Section 102(A)(i)(1) of the National Security Act of 1947," which "requires that the Director of National Intelligence 'protect intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure.'"  The court notes that "[i]t is indisputable that Section 102A qualifies as a withholding statute for the purpose of Exemption 3."  The court finds "Plaintiff's reading of the Act . . . too limited."  The court explains that "'it is the responsibility of the [intelligence community], not that of the judiciary, to weigh the variety of complex and subtle factors in determining whether disclosure of information may lead to an unacceptable risk of compromising the . . .  intelligence-gathering process.'"  The court relates that, "Defendant avers that Exemption 3 justifies withholding all 21 documents."  In conclusion, "the Court, after its in camera review, is persuaded that this 'superficially innocuous information' could compromise intelligence operations."
  • Segregability:  The Court finds that, "[b]ased on [defendant's] Declaration and careful in camera review . . . that there is no material that could have been released in the 21 documents withheld in full."  The court notes that "[o]n the basis of 'a line-by-line review of all [withheld] documents,' the agency concluded that 'all reasonably segregable, non-exempt information has been disclosed.'"  The court additionally notes that defendant "asserted that '[releasing even] pieces of information on [the 21 documents], innocuous thought [sic] they may seem individually, 'would assist adversaries in piecing together bits of information that would provide insights into the particular sources and methods relied upon by NCTC analysts.''"  Moreover, the Court finds "that even if it found that pieces of information in the 21 documents withheld in full were not exempt from disclosure, the remaining information would amount to 'an edited document with little informational value.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 3
Litigation Considerations, Supplemental to Main Categories
Updated August 6, 2014