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Manning v. DOJ, No. 15-01654, 2017 WL 108001 (D.D.C. Jan. 11, 2017) (Mehta, J.)


Manning v. DOJ, No. 15-01654, 2017 WL 108001 (D.D.C. Jan. 11, 2017) (Mehta, J.)


Re: Request for records concerning Defendants' investigation into Plaintiff and others related to the disclosures


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

  • Exemption 7(A): "The court finds that Defendants have adequately justified their withholding of all records under Exemption 7(A)." First, "the court is satisfied that the threshold requirement of Exemption 7(A) – the existence of pending law enforcement proceedings – is satisfied." The court relates that "[defendant] states that '[t]he records responsive to plaintiff's request are part of the FBI's active, ongoing criminal investigation into the . . . disclosure of classified information [on the WikiLeaks website].'" "[Defendant] further asserts that 'release of these records would interfere with pending and prospective enforcement proceedings[,]'" and further "clarify[ed] that the ongoing investigation focuses not on Plaintiff, but rather on civilian involvement in the publication of classified information." Second, "[t]he court . . . concludes that Defendants properly used the categorical approach to justify their withholding of records under Exemption 7(A)." The court relates that defendant assigned records to several categories and "[defendant's] declaration then describe[d] how disclosing each subcategory of information would interfere with the pending investigation." Specifically, "the court finds that Defendants have sufficiently shown that the release of information concerning only Plaintiff would still interfere with the ongoing investigation of others." "Such predictive judgments of harm are entitled to deference . . . especially where, as here, the investigation concerns matters of national security." Third, "[t]he court . . . is satisfied that the FBI conducted a segregability review." The court relates that, "according to [defendant's] declaration, the FBI conducted a 'document-by-document review of all records containing information responsive to both parts of plaintiff's request to determine whether there was any reasonably segregable nonexempt information that could be released to her' and 'did not locate any such information.'" "That attestation, when combined with the presumption that agencies comply with their duty of segregation, is sufficient to demonstrate Defendant['s] compliance with FOIA's segregability requirement." Responding to plaintiff's "question[] [as to] whether the FBI conducted a segregation review at all, given the short timeframe in which it claims to have both reviewed the responsive documents and denied their disclosure[,]" the court finds that "[defendant's] second declaration provides a reasoned explanation for the FBI's rapid search and response to Plaintiff's FOIA request – prior familiarity with the material Plaintiff requested."
  • Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection: "[T]he court declines to conduct an in camera review." The court explains that "[a]n in camera review may be required when the agency affidavit is insufficiently detailed or there is evidence of bad faith on the part of the agency." The court finds that "[n]either of those conditions is present here."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(A)
Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection
Updated December 9, 2021