Hammouda v. OIP, No. 12-0130, 2013 WL 363191 (D.D.C. Jan. 31, 2013) (Bates, J.)

Date: 
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Re: First party request for records concerning plaintiff's criminal trial and a contract for sale plaintiff alleges was used to convict plaintiff Disposition: Granting OIP's motion for summary judgment
  • Procedural: The court finds that the FOIA does not require an agency "'to have clairvoyant capabilities to discover the requester's needs.'"
  • Jurisdiction: The court dismisses plaintiff's claims against EOUSA. "Since plaintiff did not (1) mention her request to EOUSA in the complaint, (2) name EOUSA as a defendant in this action, or (3) seek to amend the complaint earlier in this litigation to add a claim against EOUSA, the Court finds that any claim predicated on plaintiff's request to EOUSA is beyond the scope of this action."
  • Exemption 7(A): The court concludes that Exemption 7(A) was properly invoked by the FBI. The court rejects plaintiff's argument that Exemption 7(A) may not be applied because the documents are nine to eleven years old. The court finds that their age "neither creates a genuine dispute of material fact nor rebuts the presumption of good faith accorded the [FBI's] declaration." The FBI declaration detailed how disclosure would risk premature revelation of the "'nature, scope, focus, or direction of the [FBI's] investigation' of third parties that is 'on-going,' and 'allow [the targets of the investigation] to elude detection or tamper with evidence; and/or compromise[e] evidence and sensitive law enforcement information.'"
  • Exemption 7(C): The court upholds the FBI's assertion of Exemption 7(C). Noting that plaintiff did not challenge the use of "7(C) to redact the identifying information of various categories of third-party individuals," the court opines that "[s]uch information is categorically exempt from disclosure absent a showing, not made here, that the public's interest in the exempt information outweighs the substantial privacy interests at stake."
  • Exemption 7(D): The court holds that the FBI properly used Exemption 7(D) to withhold "'a FBI interview of a Confidential Source who provided information concerning an ongoing FBI Investigation." An express promise of confidentiality was "'evidenced by the words 'PROTECT IDENTITY' when the individual's name is referenced in the file.'" Since Exemption 7(D) "also protects the information that the confidential informant supplied to the FBI," the sixteen page interview was properly withheld in its entirety.
  • Exemption 7(E): The court rejects plaintiff's request that it reconsider the FBI's invocation of Exemption 7(E) "'in light of [her] allegations of governmental wrongdoing regarding evidence tampering in her criminal trial.'" Noting that Exemption 7(E) does not require the court to "balance the conflicting interests," the court finds that because "plaintiff has not questioned the asserted procedures and techniques or the asserted harm from their disclosure," the FBI is entitled to summary judgment with regard to its use of Exemption 7(E) to protect "'procedures and techniques used by FBI agents to conduct criminal investigations.'"
  • Exemption 7(F): The court upholds the FBI's assertion of Exemption 7(F) to "redact identifying information of 'an individual who provided information to the FBI about alleged criminal activities,' which if disclosed 'could reasonably be expected to endanger his/her life and/or physical safety." The court notes that plaintiff "has not disputed defendant's reasonable justification" and accordingly decides that the FBI is entitled to summary judgment on its use of Exemption 7(F).
  • Segregability: The court determines that all reasonably segregated portions have been released. The court finds that the FBI "has shown that the 16 pages withheld in their entirety are confidential source material, which the Court has already found protected from disclosure under Exemption 7(D)." Additionally, the court notes that "having examined the redacted pages alongside the [FBI] declaration . . . [the FBI] has shown that it released all reasonably segregable portions of the redacted pages," and declines plaintiff's request that it conduct an in camera review of the sixteen pages withheld in full.
Topic: 
District Court
Exemption 7A
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7D
Exemption 7E
Exemption 7F
Procedural
Segregability
Updated August 6, 2014