Shapiro v. DOJ, No. 13-595, 2015 WL 410566 (D.D.C. Feb. 2, 2015) (Collyer, J.)

Date: 
Monday, February 2, 2015

Shapiro v. DOJ, No. 13-595, 2015 WL 410566 (D.D.C. Feb. 2, 2015) (Collyer, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning Occupy Houston

Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  "[T]he Court finds that the Third [defendant] Declaration sufficiently identifies [the records] as compiled for law enforcement purposes and provides a legitimate basis for FBI's withholding under Exemption 7."  The court relates that defendant's declaration states that the records "'concern[ed] potential investigations into criminal act[s] regarding the "Occupy" movement in Houston' . . . and 'potential criminal activity by protestors.'"  Additionally, the court notes that defendant's declaration states that the records "pertain to the investigation of and sharing of criminal intelligence related to terroristic threats and/or reports of potential violence against protest participants'" and that "'[t]he FBI specifies that the records at issue were compiled to investigate threats made against protestors participating in Occupy movements or potential infrastructure attacks against certain targets or entities.'"
     
  • Exemption 7(A):  "[T]he Court agrees that [certain] records . . . as well as redactions in other documents subject to this exemption, were properly withheld under Exemption 7(A) given that releasing parts of the records could reasonably interfere with FBI enforcement proceedings by identifying suspects and sources, and by otherwise jeopardizing an open investigation."  The court relates that the records at issue were "'intelligence reports,' which are 'text-based briefing[s] or information-sharing product[s], generally prepared for senior management officials to inform them about current threats.'"
     
  • Exemption 7(C):  "[T]he Court concludes that the names of and identifying information about third parties is properly withheld under FOIA Exemption 7(C)."  The court notes that "[plaintiff] challenges only the names and/or identifying information of individuals who provided information to FBI, asserting that no privacy concern is implicated by releasing data about those individuals who could be called to testify as witnesses at trial."  However, the court finds that "[plaintiff] offers no evidence of misconduct, nor does he demonstrate any public interest that could outweigh the recognized privacy interests of the private individuals identified in the responsive records."  "The Court agrees with FBI that revealing the names of individuals associated with law enforcement activities could unnecessarily expose them to retaliation, embarrassment, or harassment."
     
  • Exemption 7(D):  The court holds that "[b]ased on these statements and a review of the documents, the Court finds that Exemption 7(D) applies to protect the names of and information about individuals whose relationship to criminal activity stems from their involvement in 'organized violent groups.'"  The court notes that the "FBI has articulated that the names and information withheld on the basis of implied confidentiality are from 'individuals who are members of organized violent groups' that 'come into contact with criminal elements and share information that such elements believe is not intended for disclosure to law enforcement.'"  Additionally, the court relates that the FBI stated that "'[i]nformation provided by these sources is singular in nature due to their source closeness with criminal elements' and '[w]ith all certainty, these individuals will not share this information with any law enforcement agency if they are aware that their identities and the information they provided will be further disclosed.'"
     
  • Exemption 7(E):  "[T]he Court is confident that FBI has met the 'relatively low bar' of demonstrating how individuals could use the withheld information to circumvent the law either by altering their criminal behavior after learning of FBI's specific investigative techniques or by disrupting FBI activity."  The court notes "that Exemption 7(E) applies to three types of investigative techniques and procedures: (1) case file numbers, based on a file numbering system that identifies the investigative interest or priority given to such matters; (2) collection and/or analysis of information, specifically the manner in which FBI applies and analyzes information for use in its investigations and intelligence purposes, which is not publicly known; and (3) law enforcement techniques utilized to conduct national security and intelligence investigations."  The court relates that defendant stated that "'[r]evealing the techniques, potential targets of the techniques, and/or the nature of the information gleaned via their use in the context of this material would effectively reveal specifics of how, and in what settings the techniques are employed' and that as a result, 'criminal targets would be better able to avoid detection by developing countermeasures to circumvent the ability of law enforcement officials to use the techniques, thus rendering them useless to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.'"
Topic: 
District Court
Exemption 7
Exemption 7A
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7D
Exemption 7E
Updated April 21, 2015