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Stahl v. DOJ, No. 19-4142, 2022 WL 742872 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 11, 2022) (Cogan, J.)


Stahl v. DOJ, No. 19-4142, 2022 WL 742872 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 11, 2022) (Cogan, J.)

Re:  Request for videos of inmate convicted for 1993 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center receiving food and rehydration through intravenous therapy and nasogastric tube

Disposition:  Reserving judgment and directing defendants to conduct additional video redaction analysis

  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements & Exemption (7)(F):  "The government's supplemental briefing argues that the BOP staffs' identities and the techniques they used to administer the involuntary treatment are exempt from FOIA."  "To support this conclusion, defendants point to FOIA's safety exemption, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(F), and the Court's March 26, 2022 opinion."  "Based on this reading, defendants argue that protected information exists throughout the videos and is not 'reasonably segregable.'"  The court finds that "[t]his interpretation is too broad."  "The Court's prior opinion demonstrates that the only remaining issue is whether the government's video editing capabilities allow it to efficiently and thoroughly redact the identities of BOP staff."

    "Despite [a prior decision of the court], the government's brief concludes that exempt information encompasses 'the protective gear worn by the team, the security equipment and [the] use of that equipment.'"  "This approach ignores the prior opinion's critical distinction that the protective gear and security equipment alone are not exempt."  "Such equipment and how it is used is widely known."  "Rather, it is that equipment's use in the context of standard prisoner cell extraction and transfer procedures, which are also publicly available, that allows this section of the videos to fall within § 552(b)(7)(F)’s security exception."  "Disclosing this information would enable otherwise healthy and capable inmates to circumvent the standard procedures, threatening the BOP's ability to perform them safely."  "Once the prisoner extraction and transport were complete, [the prisoner] was fully within the power of BOP personnel."  "Although standard use-of-force techniques and procedures are employed throughout these videos, these methods would be irrelevant to any similarly situated inmate seeking to resist BOP personnel during the forced administration of medical aid."  "Weak, encircled, and completely controlled, anyone in [the inmate's] position could not reasonably pose a danger to BOP staff . . . ."  "Thus, the government has, again, not met its burden of demonstrating why BOP staff and inmate safety would be endangered by disclosing the methods and equipment displayed in the remaining sections of these videos."     

    "At this point, the Court cannot accept the government's position that it could not reasonably segregate the exempted and unexempted information."  "[Defendant] states that [defendant] attempted to edit a portion of the videos by blurring everything except the inmate."  "The government's argument suggests [defendant] did this because the government believed that [prisoner's] restraints, BOP equipment, and the techniques of BOP personnel all constituted exempted information."  "Given this overly broad task, [Defendant] assessed that it would take . . . approximately 120 hours to edit the entire video."  "The Court cannot rely on this assessment because it was based on the previously described faulty premise [concerning the segregability of Exemption 7(F) information]."

    "Additionally, [Defendant] originally stated that the video editing software. . . could both black out and blur images, yet [defendant] only discussed the effects of the blur function."  The court notes that "[p]resumably placing a black box or circle around BOP staff would be a far easier and more complete way to obscure their identity as opposed to merely blurring out portions of a frame."  While the court highlights that "disclosing the identity of the BOP staff involved in this forced medical treatment of a convicted international terrorist risks expos[es] them to reprisals and retaliation", the court ultimately finds that "[t]he government still must demonstrate why it cannot 'reasonably segregate' or redact any portion of those videos."  As such, the court holds that "[t]he government's arguments and evidence reveal that it incorrectly broadened the Court's earlier guidance and may not have fully explored the redaction options available in the software it used for this case" and that "[t]he government must narrow its scope and, again, attempt to redact information that could reasonably be used to identify BOP staff."     
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(F)
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated March 29, 2022