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Greenpeace, Inc. v. DHS, No. 17-479, 2018 WL 2048876 (D.D.C. May 1, 2018) (Kelly, J.)


Greenpeace, Inc. v. DHS, No. 17-479, 2018 WL 2048876 (D.D.C. May 1, 2018) (Kelly, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning facilities previously at high-risk for terrorism that have reduced their chemical holdings

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Relief:  The court holds that, "to the extent that [plaintiff] seeks to 'enforce' [an] attorney advisor's decision, . . . [plaintiff] does not state a valid claim for relief."  The court explains that "'[d]e novo means here, as it ordinarily does, a fresh, independent determination of "the matter" at stake; the court's inquiry is not limited to or constricted by the administrative record, nor is any deference due the agency's conclusion.'"  "The Court will accordingly consider the merits of [plaintiff's] claim on de novo review."
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court notes that "[plaintiff] has not challenged the adequacy of this search, and the Court concludes that Defendants have met their burden of showing a good faith effort to locate all responsive records using reasonable methods."
  • Exemption 7(F):  The court holds that, "[w]hile there are surely many hard cases under Exemption 7(F), this is not one of them."  "The information in question was compiled by DHS in order to keep our country safe from terrorist attacks."  "Disclosing it would reveal the location of facilities containing dangerous chemicals terrorists might target, as well as how the government has assessed the risks posed by those facilities – all information that terrorists might exploit."  "Such disclosures would thus risk the life and health of persons working at or living near those facilities, who would be harmed in the event of a terrorist attack."  "Therefore, DHS has properly invoked Exemption 7(F)."
  • Procedural Requirements, "Reasonably Segregable" Obligation:  "[T]he Court agrees with Defendants that they have satisfied FOIA's segregability requirement.  "The court relates that "[plaintiff] effectively wants DHS to determine which facilities have no risk, so that their names can be unredacted."  "But DHS does not make such determinations in the ordinary course."  "It decides whether facilities are 'high risk;' it does not determine which facilities pose 'no risk.'"  "Unsurprisingly, then, DHS does not generally record facts – such whether facilities have 'permanently' divested themselves of chemicals of interest – that would be necessary to make a 'no risk' determination."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(F)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Relief
Procedural Requirements, “Reasonably Segregable” Obligation
Updated January 31, 2020