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Inst. for Policy Studies v. CIA, No. 06-960, 2019 WL 3459073 (D.D.C. July 31, 2019) (Lamberth, J.)


Inst. for Policy Studies v. CIA, No. 06-960, 2019 WL 3459073 (D.D.C. July 31, 2019) (Lamberth, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning Pablo Escobar's activities in Central and South America

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

  • Procedural Requirements:  The court relates that "[a]mong the documents containing relevant material is a six-page-long daily intelligence report . . . summarizing developments throughout Europe, South America, and the Middle East."  "The South America-portion discusses an attack on Escobar's brother, so the government processed and released it in full."  "But the government did not even process the portions discussing Europe and the Middle East, construing them as separate 'records' not responsive to [plaintiff's] request."  The court finds that two things "suggest the government slices the definition of 'record' too thinly."  "First, the Justice Department's guidance . . . notes agencies should not divide documents 'on less than a page-by-page basis': 'If any of the information on a page of the document falls within the subject matter of a FOIA request, then that entire page should be included as within the scope of the request.'"  "[H]ere, the government proposes carving pages into individual paragraphs and sentences."  "That contravenes not only the Justice Department's guidance, but AILA itself."  "Second, agency practice."  "Throughout this litigation – which pre- and post-dates AILA – the government has failed to consistently explain when a document constitutes a single record and when it should be splintered into several."  "And it doubles back on how the government defined these records in its pre-AILA Vaughn indices, which treated composite intelligence reports as one record, not multiple."  "The Court recognizes the practical significance of its decision."  "Intelligence community members will have to devote additional time and resources processing documents yielding little useful information."  "That saddles their evermore-burdened FOIA offices with busy work, delays responses for other FOIA requesters, and distracts subject matter experts from their primary mission."  "But those are problems for Congress."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Procedural Requirements, Supplemental to Main Categories
Updated August 21, 2019