Gosen v. USCIS, No. 13-1091, 2014 WL 6809183 (D.D.C. Dec. 5, 2014) (Jackson, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff's application for asylum
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
- Exemption 7, Threshold: The court holds that "the argument that an agency must have 'a law enforcement mandate' to invoke Exemption 7 is entirely unsupported." The court finds that "the sorts of files at issue here, . . . 'are involved with the enforcement of a statute or regulation within [USCIS's] authority and ... were compiled for adjudicative or enforcement purposes [.]'"
- Exemptions 6 and 7(C): The court holds that defendant properly used Exemptions 6 and 7(C) to withhold certain information. The court first finds that "most of the relevant redactions within the . . . pages concern identifying information about USCIS or other government employees . . . and the significant privacy interest at stake when it comes to the identifying information of government employees in the context of FOIA requests is beyond dispute." "Moreover, where the details of third parties other than law enforcement officials appear in the context of law enforcement reports and background checks, the D.C. Circuit has recognized that the third party has a substantial privacy interest in not having his or her name associated with a law enforcement file." The court then rejects plaintiff's public interest argument, finding that "Exemptions 6 and 7(C) have been used here to redact only names and some identifying information, and nothing that could possibly help to prove or disprove USCIS's alleged misconduct."
- Exemption 7(E): The court holds that "USCIS has easily mounted the 'low bar' necessary to justify Exemption 7(E), and is therefore entitled to summary judgment as to this exemption." "Based on in camera review of the contested documents, [the] Court finds that USCIS has redacted two broad types of information under Exemption 7(E): (1) database information such as codes and descriptions of documents . . . and (2) details about how USCIS processes asylum cases." The court finds that "[t]his kind of information is precisely 'the type[ ] of information contemplated by the exemption, and ... properly is withheld under Exemption 7(E).'"
- Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege: The court "den[ies] both motions for summary judgment as to Exemption 5." "[A]lthough the documents withheld appear to be deliberative, Plaintiff has raised sufficient doubt about the timing of the asylum decision such that it cannot be established one way or the other, based on the current record, that the withheld documents are predecisional."