Leopold v. CIA, No. 14-48, 2015 WL 1445106 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2015) (Boasberg, J.)

Date: 
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Leopold v. CIA, No. 14-48, 2015 WL 1445106 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2015) (Boasberg, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning internal study of CIA's former detention and interrogation program

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

  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege:  "The Court . . . concludes that the Reviews are properly withheld under Exemption 5's deliberative-process privilege."  First, the court finds that "the agency has sustained its burden to show that the Reviews were predecisional."  The court finds that "the Reviews were created to aid senior agency officials' deliberations about how to respond to the SSCI's investigation into its former program, as well as how to deal with other policy issues that might arise therefrom."  "Contrary to Plaintiff's assertions, a finding that the documents are predecisional would not stretch the meaning of the term too far."  The court finds that, "[h]ere, there was a congressional inquiry underway about a specific CIA program."  "The agency was thus engaged in an ongoing, multi-year, deliberative process about how to handle these issues, and the Reviews preceded the agency's final decisions in that process."  The court also notes that "the Reviews were written by lower-level employees for use by senior CIA officials."  Additionally, the court finds that "documents are not postdecisional simply because they address past events."  Here, the court finds that the reviewers were "designed to aid decisions that CIA officials would need to make, going forward."  Second, the court finds that the reviews are deliberative.  "It further agrees that they may be withheld in full."  The court reject's plaintiff's contention "that because 'no senior CIA official reviewed or relied on the reviews, disclosure of the summaries would not reveal what advice senior CIA officials received and how much of it they accepted'" and instead finds that this "does not change the fact that the Reviews themselves were deliberative."  The court also finds that the material can be withheld in full because "'the factual material here was not assembled for an agency actor merely to pass along to outsiders, but rather for purely internal deliberative purposes.'"  More specifically, the Reviews were "'intended to facilitate or assist development of the agency's final position on the relevant issue[s].'"  Additionally, "the authors strove to write briefing materials that would aid senior officials' decisionmaking."  "To do so, they had to 'ma[k]e judgments about the salience of particular facts in light of the larger policy issues that senior CIA leaders might face in connection with the SSCI's study.'"  "They also had to 'organize that information in a way that would be most useful to senior CIA officials.'"
Topic: 
District Court
Exemption 5
Updated June 18, 2015