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Scudder v. CIA, No. 12-807, 2017 WL 2178298 (D.D.C. May 17, 2017) (Howell, C. J.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Scudder v. CIA, No. 12-807, 2017 WL 2178298 (D.D.C. May 17, 2017) (Howell, C. J.)

Re:  Request for certain articles from CIA journal "Studies in Intelligence"

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration & Exemption 1:  The court holds that "the declarations and Vaughn Indices 'plausibly' justify the CIA's 'assertion that [the] information [requested] is properly classified.'"  "The CIA's declarations and Vaughn Indices . . . show that the withheld information meets the requirements of E.O. 13526."  "Not only does the declarant explain how the withheld information meets the procedural requirements of E.O. 13526, the declarations and Vaughn indices, taken together, adequately detail how each withheld document and redacted material includes information about intelligence sources and methods – including information about foreign liaisons and governments, cover, and field installations – as well as specific intelligence activities."  "Further, as [defendant] explained . . . release of this information could compromise the CIA's mission by revealing 'the breadth, capabilities, and limitations of the U.S. Government's intelligence collection,' . . . as well as the Government's 'specific intelligence capabilities, interests, priorities, and resources[.]'"
  • Exemption 1:  Responding to plaintiff's objection that the information at issue is not classified, the court holds that "[i]n this case, the CIA provided multiple declarations from an individual who holds original classification authority at the Top Secret level and is therefore 'authorized to conduct classification reviews and to make original classification decisions.'"  "Lacking any record evidence of bad faith, the plaintiff's assertions to the contrary are not persuasive or controlling."  The court explains that "'[b]ecause judges lack the expertise necessary to second-guess such agency opinions in the typical national security FOIA case, the court declines to do so here.'"  "Moreover, the plaintiff does not have, or purport to have, original classification authority."  "Consequently, his personal opinions and recollections are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the articles withheld are classified."  Responding to another specific objection about the classification status, the court finds that "the mere fact that an author's name is unclassified in one context does not imply that the same name is not classified in another context."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court holds that, "[i]n this case, the CIA's declarant has explained that she 'conducted a page-by-page and line-by-line review of all of the articles at issue and released all reasonable segregable non-exempt information.'"  "Further, '[a]fter reviewing all of the records at issue,' the CIA's declarant 'determined that no additional information can be released without jeopardizing classified . . . information . . ..'"  "Based on review of the CIA's supplemental declaration and amended Vaughn Index, sufficient detail has been provided to the Court to support the declarant's statement."  Additionally, the court relates that "plaintiff speculates, based on his perusal of article titles, that withheld documents might cover 'innocuous, historical or even silly topic[s].'"  The court finds that "[t]his bare speculation is insufficient to undermine the CIA's assertion that the information contained in the articles is classified."



District Court
Exemption 1
Litigation Considerations
Vaughn Index
Updated January 31, 2018