Shapiro v. DOJ, No. 16-01399, 2018 WL 695376 (D.D.C. Feb. 1, 2018) (McFadden, J.)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

 Shapiro v. DOJ, No. 16-01399, 2018 WL 695376 (D.D.C. Feb. 1, 2018) (McFadden, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning research and public relations effort conducted by FBI in mid-to-late 1970s called "'Operation Mosaic'"

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

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that defendant's searches were adequate.  The court credits "DOJ['s] argu[ment] that its searches were adequate because it conducted electronic searches of the [Central Records System] and [Electronic Surveillance System ("ECF")] indices through the [Universal Index] application of [Automated Case System] and Sentinel, and a physical search of files from the FBI's Alexandria Records Centers . . ., which stores the FBI's closed files from its headquarters and field offices."  Additionally, the court finds that the FBI conducted "full-text searches in ECF" when necessary or ordered by the court to do so.  The court also finds that "[certain] adequately designed search[es] responsive to [plaintiff's] request [do] not require an ECF text search."


  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege:  First, the court holds that portions of FBI processing notes "reflect FBI employees' comments as to how they searched for documents potentially responsive to [plaintiff's] requests, and the employees' evaluations as to the responsiveness of certain documents resulting from their searches."  "These comments were made during the FBI's search and review process – i.e., prior to the FBI's final determination on these documents – and are therefore predecisional as well as deliberative."  "[The court] also agree[s] with the OIP's determination that the material redacted on the three 'Blitz' forms and on one handwritten note is the predecisional and deliberative process of the agency."  "The information redacted contains the impressions, analysis, and recommendation of OIP staff in their evaluation and adjudication of the adequacy of the FBI's searches."  "Since these notes and comments were made during the course of the OIP's adjudication, prior to it rendering a decision on [plaintiff's] appeal, the material is both predecisional and deliberative, and was properly withheld."


  • Exemption 6:  "[The court] finds that the Defendant has adequately explained how ["'administrative file numbers and serials' pertaining to FBI Special Agents and other support personnel"] implicate an individual's privacy interest, and that no competing consideration in this case compels their production."  The court relates that "[t]he FBI explains that although these file numbers and serials may not, on their own and on their face, divulge personal information, they may be used in conjunction with, or cross-referenced with, other information in the public domain (whether obtained through a FOIA request or other means) to uncover certain private information, such as the existence of an individual's employment status or investigation, the type and nature of employment or investigation, the geographical area of the matter, and potentially the extent of someone's career with the FBI or amount of information obtained by the FBI."


  • Exemption 7(C):  "[The court] find[s] that ["'an investigative file serial created to investigate specific individuals for possible violations of federal crimes'"] was properly redacted under FOIA exemption 7(C)."  "Similarly as with exemption 6, the disclosure of the file number and/or serial could identify the type of criminal activity at issue, the geographical location where the investigation was initiated, and the amount of intelligence obtained by the FBI, as well as, in concert with other information, the subject of the investigation."
Adequacy of Search
Exemption 5
Exemption 6
Exemption 7C
Litigation Considerations
Updated June 27, 2018