Report would, if released as authentic Agency information, cause significant damage to the reputations of many individuals, several of whom hold prominent positions. The Report contains unproven allegations of very serious criminal wrongdoing on the part of certain individuals.
Plaintiff argues that protection of personal privacy cannot be a valid ground for withholding the Report because the Agency admits that unauthorized disclosure of a document resembling the Report, at least in part, has already occurred. This argument ignores the fact that release of an authenticated copy of an Agency investigative report would exacerbate any harm produced by previously unauthorized disclosures because previously released information must have been regarded as unsubstantiated and speculative. The Court of Appeals for this Circuit has previously encountered a similar argument, and responded that the authoritative nature of the subsequent disclosure and the renewed publicity brought on by it were sufficient to implicate privacy interests. Bast v. Department of Justice, 214 U.S. App. D.C. 433, 665 F.2d 1251, at 1255 (D.C.Cir.1981).
Plaintiff counters that even if privacy interests are present, the greater public interest promoted by disclosure requires release of the information. Plaintiff asserts that official disclosure of the Report would allow persons injured by the unofficial disclosure to identify the source of the defamatory information and better allow them to defend themselves against the defamation. This argument has at least two flaws. First, it assumes that the information contained in the Report is the same or similar to information contained in Agency documents publicly available through unauthorized leaks. That assumption may or may not be valid. Second, if the Report were released, it is certain that media attention would focus on it. It is very difficult to believe that the victims of uncorroborated, yet destructive, allegations of wrongdoing would somehow be able to cleanse their reputations by pointing out that the source of the Report is merely an official Department of Justice criminal investigation. While it is conceivable that some individual currently injured by unauthorized leaked information might be able to repair his or her reputation by reference to the authentic Report, that possibility is clearly outweighed by the devastating violations of privacy that would be certain to occur in the wake of official disclosure of this Report having the imprimatur of the Department of Justice.
As a last resort, plaintiff seeks to compel defendant to disclose segregable portions of the Report which do not fall within Exemption 7(C). In spite of the FOIA presumption in favor of disclosure of segregable portions, the Agency validly objects to partial disclosure on the ground that such disclosure might divulge the very information defendant seeks to protect by identifying the Report and thereby serving to confirm or deny whether the document plaintiff possesses is an authentic version of the Report. In essence, there is no segregable portion of the Report in this case that would render any such disclosure meaningful.
Plaintiff highlights several genuine issues of fact, but none of the disputed facts are material to the legal conclusion that the Report is within Exemption 7(C).
It is not necessary to address the Agency's argument that the Report is also within Exemption 7(D).