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McCash v. CIA, No. 15-02308, 2016 WL 6650389 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 10, 2016) (Davila, J.)


McCash v. CIA, No. 15-02308, 2016 WL 6650389 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 10, 2016) (Davila, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff

Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: "[T]he court finds that the CIA discharged its burden of establishing that the search conducted was reasonably calculated to uncover documents relevant and responsive to Plaintiff's request, and was therefore adequate under FOIA." The court finds that "[t]he CIA provided the court with a comprehensive declaration, explaining the process and specifics of the searches it conducted in response to Plaintiff's request" and "[t]he fact that the search conducted by the CIA did not produce the prior correspondences from Plaintiff to the Agency does not, absent more, render the search inadequate." Similarly, the court finds that "the NSA described with particularity the office responsible for the search, the database it searched, the process it used to search – including the search terms used – and the results of the search." "The NSA's declarations are sufficiently detailed for the court to find and conclude that the Agency executed an adequate search in response to Plaintiff's FOIA request." Additionally, "the court finds that the FBI conducted a diligent search that was reasonably tailored to uncover documents responsive to Plaintiff's request[.]" Responding to plaintiff's argument that the FBI's Electronic Case File system should be searched, the court finds that "[t]he [Central Records System] search did locate certain documents responsive to Plaintiff's request, but the FBI identified nothing in those documents or its other records to suggest that additional responsive information would result from another search." "The FBI therefore determined that 'a full text search' of [Electronic Case File] was not warranted."
  • Exemption 1, Glomar: The court holds that "[d]efendants' Motion is granted as to the CIA and NSA's use of a Glomar Response." "[T]he court is satisfied that each agency met its burden of 'proving the applicability' of Exemption 1." "Both agencies provided detailed declarations identifying and explaining the potential threat to national security posed by confirming or denying the existence or nonexistence of classified records responsive to Plaintiff's request." The court relates that both defendants "determined that the existence of intelligence records responsive to Plaintiff's FOIA request 'is itself a currently and properly classified fact.'"
  • Exemption 6 & 7(C): "Balancing the legitimate privacy interests of FBI personnel against the public interest in the disclosure of the information here, the FBI's privacy interest prevails" and "[t]he court finds [that] the FBI's use of Exemptions 6 and 7(C) was warranted." The court finds that "'FBI agents have a legitimate interest in keeping private matters that could conceivably subject them to annoyance or harassment.'" Against that privacy interest, the court finds that "[a]n individual's interest in obtaining certain information about himself or herself does not in and of itself create a public interest in disclosure."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements: The court rules that " the declaration submitted by the FBI lacks the detail and specificity necessary for the court to make any finding on the legitimacy of the FBI's withholding decision or the issue of segregability." "First, the FBI does not identify any specific facts or bases for its conclusion that there is no non-exempt and reasonably segregable material in the withheld pages, much less describe how information is dispersed or why segregability would be impractical or unduly burdensome." "Second, nowhere does the FBI specifically identify for the court which exemption or exemptions it invoked as justification for withholding all of the information contained in the two documents."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 1
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated January 10, 2022