James Madison Project v. DOJ, No. 16-116, 2018 WL 1472492 (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2018) (Walton, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning investigation of "'former NSA employee'"
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion for partial summary judgment
- Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration & Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege: The court holds that, "[b]ased on the Director's descriptions of the redacted language, and 'bearing in mind "the strong policy of the FOIA that the public is entitled to know what its government is doing and why," the Court cannot say that [the Director's] redactions [pursuant to the deliberative process privilege of FOIA Exemption 5] were proper.'" The court finds that "[defendant's] description 'fail[s] to provide sufficient factual context for . . . the information withheld under the deliberative process privilege to allow the Court to conclude that the privilege has been properly invoked[.]'" "Specifically, [defendant] 'do[es] not describe either the specific deliberative process, the function of the particular record, or the nature of the decisionmaking authority.'" "Moreover, [defendant] does not address 'any potential harm to the [specific] deliberative process that would be incurred by releasing the [withheld information].'" "Additionally, . . . the Court is not convinced that the withheld information 'sufficiently reflect[s] the give and take of the deliberative process to warrant continued redaction[.]'"
- Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection: The court holds that "'[b]ecause a district court should not undertake in camera review of withheld [information] as a substitute for requiring an agency's explanation of its claims exemptions . . ., the Court finds that the best approach is to direct [the Director] to submit' an additional declaration."