Monday, July 23, 2018
Villar v. FBI, No. 15-270, 2018 WL 3542861 (D.N.H. July 23, 2018) (McCafferty, J.)
Re: Request for records about the requester and a witness from his criminal trial
- Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration: The court finds the defendant's second Vaughn index sufficient because it "identifies and describes each document that the FBI withheld in full or in part[,]" "describes the specific content in each document . . . and provides a justification for why it was exempt." Although the justifications are generalized, "they are now linked to a description of the specific withheld material."
- Exemption 6, Exemption 7(C): The court rejects the plaintiff's argument that "his two co-conspirators have diminished privacy interests because they have been arrested" and that "they waived those interests when they signed plea agreements with the government." The court explains that the plaintiff "points to no specific information that he seeks that is already in the public record." "Moreover, to the extent there is any publicly available information in the withheld material, that information is still exempt from disclosure under Exemption 7(C) . . . because [the plaintiff] has not demonstrated a legitimate public interest . . . that could outweigh even a diminished privacy interest." The court rejects the plaintiff's argument that his co-conspirators waived their privacy rights that FOIA protects as a result of waiving their rights to request documents under FOIA. The court also "finds that the law enforcement personnel and government agents referenced in [the plaintiff's] file possess a privacy interest in not having their identities revealed."
- Exemption 7(D): The court holds that the FBI properly protected the identities of confidential sources pursuant to express grants of confidentiality and that the remaining sources are appropriately protected pursuant to implied grants of confidentiality because of the "violent nature of the crime at issue and the sources' role in providing information that led to the indictment."
- Exemption 7(E): The court finds that the FBI appropriately withheld information about bank security measures, "including surveillance equipment, other security devices, and bait money, which is money that the FBI uses to track criminals following the commission of a robbery." Additionally, the court finds that the FBI appropriately withheld bank robbery techniques because it "'would give criminals additional techniques to [possibly] use in future robberies.'" The court also finds that Exemption 7(E) protects "the methods [the FBI] uses to collect and analyze [investigative information,]" "statistical ratings of the effectiveness of . . . publicly known investigative techniques," and "an internal communication, which detailed a request for payment to a source."
- Procedural Requirements, Segregability: The court finds that the FBI released all reasonably segregable information, explaining, "[m]any of the pages . . . were released in part [and] contain pinpoint redactions, which are narrow in scope and only excise the exempt material." As to information withheld in full, the court finds that "the FBI has explained that any non-exempt information is so intertwined with exempt material that no information could be reasonably segregated for release." Additionally, withholding "pages [that] detail the assistance that sources or other parties provided . . . or summarize important investigation milestones about [other] suspects" was proper because "disclosing the highly-personalized information contained in these documents would likely reveal the identity of the third-party subjects."
- Litigation Consideration, In Camera Inspection: The court denies the plaintiff's request for in camera review because "the FBI's affidavit sufficiently demonstrates its entitlement to the claimed exemptions [and] the volume of pages at issue in this case makes it inappropriate for a full in camera review."
Updated January 31, 2019