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Judicial Watch, Inc. v. DOD, No. 12-cv-49, 2013 WL 4536118 (D.D.C. Aug. 28, 2013) (Contreras, J.)

Re: Challenging defendant's redaction of the full name of a United States Navy SEAL, and the first names of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers, which defendant had revealed to filmmakers in their research of a film about the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment
  • Waiver:  The court reasons that plaintiff, "claims that the five redacted names at issue here are in the public domain, but has not 'point[ed] to specific information ... that duplicates that being withheld,' much less a 'permanent public record' in which those names have been 'disclosed and preserved.'"  The court continues to explain that, "[i]n short, [plaintiff] does not know—and, outside of this suit, apparently has no way of learning—the names of these individuals."  "That fact is strong evidence that those names are not in the public domain."  The court also rejects plaintiff's argument that, "the disclosures to the filmmakers were made with 'no strings attached,' . . . that is, 'without limiting the [filmmakers'] ability to further disseminate the information,' . . . and that . . . the government has therefore waived its ability to assert Exemption 3."  The court states that, "[e]ven if that description of the disclosures were accurate . . . it would not be enough to establish waiver in this circuit."  The D.C. Circuit has been clear that the enforcement of an otherwise applicable exemption is only pointless when the withheld information is "truly public." Last, the court rejects plaintiff's argument that, "disclosures made for an insufficiently important governmental purpose necessarily put information into the public domain," finding "that is not the law of this circuit."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Waiver and Discretionary Disclosure
Updated August 6, 2014