Roman v. Dep't of the Air Force, No. 12-1381 (EGS), 2013 WL 3388393 (D.D.C. July 9, 2013) (Sullivan, J.)

Date: 
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Re: Request for records concerning Air Force's High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) Disposition: Denying, in part, defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction: granting, in part, defendant's motion for summary judgment
  • Litigation Considerations/Subject Matter Jurisdiction:  "Plaintiff allegedly made an improper FOIA request by posing questions," but defendant nonetheless "responded and provided documents to Plaintiff.  As such, the court finds that it has jurisdiction.
  • Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  Plaintiff received two different responses from different divisions within the Air Force; Kirkland Air Force Base and the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA).  "Although Plaintiff did file an appeal within [the 60-day time frame], it did not encompass AFHRA's response to his request."  The court concludes, "Plaintiff did not exhaust all administrative remedies because he did not appeal [the] . . . AFHRA response to his request."  Therefore, his complaint as to the "AFHRA response must be dismissed."
  • Adequacy of the Search:  The court "concludes that Defendant has satisfactorily demonstrated the reasonableness and adequacy of its search."  The Defendant searched for responsive records in the "organization which manages the HAARP" after determining that it is "'the organization most likely to have records responsive to the request.'"  The search was conducted by "the HAARP Program Manager who is 'familiar with all aspects of the program including the location of the [HAARP] facility.'"  After plaintiff appealed, defendant conducted an additional search of "records concerning the goals and scope of HAARP to determine if another HAARP facility was referenced."  The paper files "were searched 'on a file by file basis.'"  Although the plaintiff "raises many allegations as to Defendant's bad faith in its search, . . . Plaintiff's allegations have no merit."  A second search was conducted after the appeal, including a search of paper files, by the individual "'familiar with all aspects of the [HAARP] program including the location of the facility."  Although plaintiff argues that defendant's search should have included "any ionosphere facility, not just the HAARP facility[,] . . . Plaintiff specifically asked for information concerning HAARP in his original request" and in his appeal letter.  "[I]t is reasonable that Defendant limited its search to HAARP and did not expand it to include any ionosphere facility."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exhaustion
Jurisdiction
Litigation Considerations
Updated August 6, 2014