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CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF CALIFORNIA v. DEPARTMENT

June 19, 1980

CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF CALIFORNIA, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This suit was brought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, et seq., by the Church of Scientology against the Department of State, et al. Before the Court are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Motion for More Detailed Justification, Additional Records and Reconsideration of the Court's Protective Order. This Court has jurisdiction under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) and Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. There are four issues involved: (1) is Defendants' index adequate, (2) have Defendants met the segregability requirement, (3) have Defendants exercised exemptions properly, and (4) should the Court reconsider its Protective Order banning further discovery.

 I. PROCEDURES FOLLOWED

 
(1) (The Court should require) that the agency submit a "relatively detailed analysis (of the materials withheld) in manageable segments." "Conclusory and generalized allegations of exemptions" would no longer be accepted by reviewing courts. . . . (2) "An indexing system (that) would subdivide the document under consideration into manageable parts cross-referenced to the relevant portion of the Government's justification" . . . This index would allow the district court and opposing counsel to locate specific areas of dispute for further examination and would be an indispensible aid to the Court of Appeals reviewing the District Court's decision. (3) "Adequate adversary testing" would be ensured by opposing counsel's access to the information included in the agency's detailed and indexed justification and by in camera inspection, guided by the detailed affidavit and using special masters appointed by the court whenever the burden proved to be especially onerous.

 This Court has not accepted abstract or conclusory claims of FOIA exemptions. In the case at bar, the Court did not accept Defendants' five initial affidavits regarding documents 1-89. Rather, on March 1, 1978, the Court ordered Defendants to submit a detailed Vaughn index for documents 1-89, subdivided into manageable parts, and cross-referenced to the government's justifications for non-disclosure. On May 3, Defendants satisfied the Court's Order by providing detailed, document-by-document descriptions of the substance of documents 1-89 divided into manageable segments. In recognition of Defendants' good faith efforts to provide non-conclusory Vaughn indexes and justifications, the Court granted Defendants' Motion for a Protective Order prohibiting further discovery. On October 2, 1978, Plaintiff requested documents referenced in material disclosed pursuant to Plaintiff's original request. In response, the government released documents 90-92 in part and documents 93-100 in full. Defendants also submitted six additional affidavits, further indexing documents 1-89 and providing more specific justifications for deletions. For documents 1-100, the original index or supplemental affidavits state (1) who prepared the document, (2) to whom it was sent, (3) when it was sent, (4) what exemptions are applicable, (5) whether the materials are segregable, (6) a description of the document, and (7) justification for the exemption. The indexing requirements for these documents have therefore been met. See Church of Scientology v. Bell, No. 76-1006, slip op. at 2 (D.D.C., Jan. 29, 1980).

 Plaintiff has also asked this Court to order Defendants to provide non-conclusory Vaughn indexes for referenced documents Request Nos. 1-21 and for secondarily referenced documents ABIJAN 2824, STATE 169389, STATE 208221 and "enclosure," STATE 132692 and "report of Greek authorities." The Defendants claim that these twenty-seven documents (some of which have been released in part or in full) fall outside the scope of Plaintiff's original request. Plaintiff's original FOIA request sought all records in the Department of State concerning the Church of Scientology, and FBI records for transmission of any information on Scientology to foreign governments, Interpol or municipal agencies. The context and titles of these additional documents, which Plaintiff has specifically identified from records previously disclosed, appear directly related to the Department of State investigation of the Church of Scientology. Consequently, the documents fall within the scope of Plaintiff's FOIA request, and must be disclosed unless an adequate Vaughn index is submitted.

 Plaintiff contends that Defendants have not satisfied the segregability requirement for documents 1-100. Plaintiff's assertion is incorrect. In most *fn1" instances, only small segments of documents 1-100 have been deleted. These deletions involve names or confidential information that is clearly exempt. See discussion, infra. Moreover, Defendants have not shifted their burden of justifying non-disclosure to the Court "by sweeping, generalized claims of exemption." Mead Data Central Inc. v. USAF, 184 U.S.App.D.C. 350, 566 F.2d 242, 260 (D.C.Cir.1977). Instead, they have set forth specific descriptions of each deleted portion and have explained the reasons for each deletion. The segregability requirement has been met.

 II. PARTICULAR EXEMPTIONS CLAIMED

 Exemption 6 of FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6), permits agencies to withhold information to protect individuals' privacy. Exemption 6 states:

 
(b) This section does not apply to matters that are . . . (6) personnel and medical and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

 The legislative history of Exemption 6 is informative. H.R.Rep.No.1497, 89th Cong., 2d Sess. 11 (1966), U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 1966, pp. 2418, 2428 notes:

 
The limitation of a "clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy" provides a proper balance between the protection of an individual's right of privacy and the preservation of the public's right to Government information by excluding those kinds of files the ...

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