Garza v. USMS, No. 16-0976, 2018 WL 4680205 (D.D.C. Sept. 28, 2018) (Sullivan, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff's Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Information System number
Disposition: Granting defendants' amended motion for summary judgment
- Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: "[T]he Court finds that defendants' searches [were] reasonable under the attendant circumstances." The court finds that "Defendants' declarations are sufficient to establish that the agencies conducted appropriate and reasonable searches and/or review and determination." "The declarations discuss the locations and systems used to conduct the search, why relevant information would potentially be in those systems, the scope of the searches, and how files are generally retrieved therefrom." "Defendants specifically detail the offices, methods, terms, and results of the searches conducted on plaintiff’s behalf."
- Exemptions 6 & 7(C): The court holds that "defendants have justified the withholding of information through Exemptions 6 and 7(C)." "The defendants’ declarations are specific as to what information withheld and why the privacy interests clearly outweigh any public interest in disclosure." Specifically, "[t]he Court agrees that disclosure regarding personal information of law enforcement personnel may hinder the ability to conduct ongoing investigations, may lead to unwarranted harassment, and may otherwise cause embarrassment and be an invasion of privacy, as contemplated by the exemptions." "These concerns significantly outweigh what little benefit the public may gain with this information." Additionally, "[t]his Circuit has consistently held that Exemption 7(C) protects the privacy interests of all persons mentioned in law enforcement records, including investigators, suspects, witnesses and informants, . . . and has determined that such third-party information is 'categorically exempt' from disclosure under Exemption 7(C), in the absence of an overriding public interest in its disclosure."
- Exemption 7(D): "[T]he Court finds that DEA’s use of Exemption 7(D) is also appropriate." The court relates that "DEA avers that its use of Exemption 7(D) is intended to protect one individual source, where confidentiality was clearly implied." "'The information provided by the individual related to the illicit trafficking in drugs by the [p]laintiff and others.'" "[The] Court has extended the protection of 7(D) in nearly identical situations, where confidentiality was situationally implied."
- Exemption 7(E): "[T]he Court concludes that the FBI properly withheld information under Exemption 7(E)." The court finds that "[a]n agency may withhold information from disclosure where, as here, it would provide insight into its investigatory or procedural techniques." "Likewise, internal website and email information may be properly withheld under Exemption 7(E)." Finally, the court relates that "DEA has withheld . . . G-DEP codes[, "used to track information associated with its criminal cases,"] in order to protect its internal strategy and procedure, and to avoid criminals from discovering this confidential information in an effort to avoid current or future apprehension.: The court finds that "DEA has established that this information is protected under Exemption 7."
- Exemption 7(F): "[T]he Court finds that DEA's reliance on Exemption 7(F) was appropriate." The court relates that "DEA invoked Exemption 7(F) to protect the names of DEA special agents whose safety could potentially be at risk if their names were released." The court finds that "[t]hese agents constitute the textbook definition of persons who warrant protection under Exemption 7(F)."
- Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements: The court relates that "Defendants represent that they have reviewed the responsive documents and deemed that all non-exempt and segregable information has been produced." "Thus, the Court concludes that defendants have satisfied their segregability obligations under FOIA."