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Leopold v. CIA, No. 13-1324, 2015 WL 2255957 (D.D.C. May 14, 2015) (Boasberg, J.)


Leopold v. CIA, No. 13-1324, 2015 WL 2255957 (D.D.C. May 14, 2015) (Boasberg, J.)

Re: Request for Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report regarding CIA's former detention and interrogation program; at issue are specific amounts agency spent on certain activities related to program

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

  • Litigation Considerations:  "[T]hough the Court agrees that it would have been helpful—and an easier case—had the Agency broken the expenditures out further in its affidavits, it believes that the CIA has nonetheless provided adequate specificity to allow for summary judgment here."  The court holds that, "although the CIA did not walk through the redactions one by one, its affidavits, read in conjunction with the released portions of the Executive Summary, provide sufficient detail for [plaintiff] and the Court to evaluate whether they fall within the scope of Exemptions 1 and 3."  The court finds that "[t]he content of the information withheld is clear."  The court explains that "the agency's affidavits also 'linked the substance of each exemption to the [redactions] common elements.'"
  • Exemption 3:  The court holds that "the Agency has adequately demonstrated that [the] release [of the material withheld under Exemption 3] could reveal sensitive information about its sources and methods."  The court relates that "the CIA principally invokes Section 102A(i)(1) of the National Security Act of 1947, 50 U.S.C. § 3024(i)(1), which provides that '[t]he Director of National Intelligence shall protect intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure.'"  The court finds that "[g]iven the considerable deference that the Court owes to the Agency in this context, it finds this explanation to be reasonable."  "It is, for instance, plausible that disclosing most of these expenditures, including '[t]he amount of money offered to an unknown country for hosting a CIA detention facility,' 'the cost of [a] CIA detention facility' in an unidentified country,' [sic] and '[t]he amount of money offered to 'show appreciation' for support of a program,' . . . could provide insight into which countries aided the CIA's efforts."  "It is also not difficult to conclude that unveiling the redacted sums, including the size of proposed budget cuts and the amounts given to detainees upon their release, could shed light on the funds that were available for particular activities, which could, in turn, divulge the agency's capabilities and priorities."  In response to plaintiff's argument, the court finds that "[i]n essence, [plaintiff] asks the Court to credit his judgments about the effects of disclosure over those of the agency."  "This is something it clearly cannot do."  Finally, the court finds that "[f]ar from casting doubt on the Agency's judgments about which sums could lead to the unauthorized disclosure of its sources and methods, the release of other expenditures suggests that the CIA has only withheld those that would unjustifiably compromise our national security."
  • Exemption 1:  The court holds that "[b]ecause the CIA has thus complied with the procedural and substantive requirements for classifying the information under Executive Order 13,526, it may also properly withhold it under Exemption 1."  The court first finds that "[t]he first two requirements are easily addressed."  "[Defendant's declarant] declares—and Plaintiff does not dispute—that she has been delegated original Top Secret classification authority, and that the information is within the United States' control."  Regarding the third requirement, the court finds that "[g]iven the lengthy analysis above  . . . it is clear that the information falls within § 1.4(c) because it 'pertains to' intelligence activities, sources, and methods."  Additionally, the court finds that "[w]hile satisfying that category alone would be sufficient, [defendant] has also shown that these sums also relate to foreign activities and relations."  The court notes that "all of them concern 'payments provided to foreign governments and foreign nationals, the amount of money expended to construct facilities abroad, and amounts reflecting the resources devoted to the former detention and interrogation program which took place overseas.'"  Regarding the last consideration, "[t]he Court finds [defendant's] predictions of harm both logical and plausible, and it sees no reason to second guess them."  The court finds that "the information could 'reveal broader intelligence priorities and the source and methods of certain intelligence collection'" and that "'[r]elease of the specific amounts would ... adversely impact current and future operations as countries and individuals would be able to use these monetary figures as a starting point for negotiations on other matters.'"
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable Requirements":  The court holds that "[g]iven the discrete nature of the information [plaintiff] seeks, it is rather obvious that the Agency could not disclose anything further without revealing what is protected."  "The agency has stated that it conducted a 'page-by-page and line-by-line review ... and concluded that all reasonably segregable non-exempt information has been released."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 1
Exemption 3
Litigation Considerations, Supplemental to Main Categories
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated December 16, 2021