(D.C. Cir. 1982). The file at issue in this case was compiled as the result of an investigation of Special Agent Hageman, after he was accused of misconduct which, if proved, could have resulted in civil or criminal sanctions under federal law. Thus this file is related to the enforcement of federal laws, and there is sufficient nexus between the IRS' investigation and its law enforcement duties.
Exemption 7(C) prevents the disclosure of investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes to the extent that they could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Here, the IRS has invoked this exemption to protect from disclosure information including: unsubstantiated rumors regarding the conduct of a person other than Housley or Special Agent Hageman; opinions of co-workers and supervisors concerning Special Agent Hageman's conduct; and the consideration of potential work assignments for Special Agent Hageman.
Individuals who may have at one time been of investigatory interest to a law enforcement agency fall within Exemption 7(C). Fund for Constitutional Government v. National Archives and Records, 211 U.S. App. D.C. 267, 656 F.2d 856, 862-863 (D.C. Cir. 1981). Third parties whose names appear in investigatory files also have the protection of this exemption. Lesar v. United States Dep't of Justice, 204 U.S. App. D.C. 200, 636 F.2d 472, 487-488 (D.C. Cir. 1980). The agency must weigh the invasion of privacy against the asserted public interest which is claimed to warrant disclosure. Id. at 488. "In this weighing process, . . . it is the interest of the general public and not that of the private litigant that must be considered." Brown v. FBI, 658 F.2d 71, 75 (2d Cir. 1981)(citation omitted).
The privacy interests at stake here are substantial. The disclosure of unsubstantiated rumors regarding the conduct of a person other than Housley or Special Agent Hageman could subject that person to embarrassment or possibly more severe harm to his reputation. See Fund for Constitutional Government, 656 F.2d at 863-865. As for the co-workers and supervisors who voiced opinions concerning Special Agent Hageman's conduct, they also have a substantial interest in seeing that their participation in the investigation remains secret. See Bast v. Dep't of Justice, 214 U.S. App. D.C. 433, 665 F.2d 1251, 1254 (D.C. Cir. 1981); Lesar, 636 F.2d at 488. Finally, the information regarding the suitability of Special Agent Hageman for various work responsibilities obviously implicates a legitimate privacy interest of that individual.
On the other side of the balance, Housley has not adequately supported his "public interest" claim with respect to the specific information being withheld. This Court, in evaluating the IRS' (7)(C) claims, must "weigh the specific privacy invasion against the value of disclosing a given document." Bast, 665 F.2d at 1254, citing Common Cause v. National Archives and Records, 202 U.S. App. D.C. 179, 628 F.2d 179, 184 (D.C. Cir. 1980). In counterbalance to the legitimate and substantial privacy interests the IRS has presented, Housley points to no more than the general presumption of public disclosure under FOIA. However, under (7)(C), this interest is not in and of itself sufficient to outweigh the significant and legitimate privacy concerns identified by the IRS.
Accordingly, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted and plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
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