Order authorizes the classification of information that, if disclosed, "reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security." Exec. Order No. 12,356 § 1.3(b), 47 Fed. Reg. 14,876. "National security" is defined as "the national defense or foreign relations of the United States." Id. § 6.1(e), 47 Fed. Reg. 14,883.
This Court must determine de novo whether the State Department properly withheld the information pursuant to Exemption 1. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). While the State Department bears the burden of sustaining its claim,
we must accord "substantial weight" to its determinations.
See Goldberg v. United States Department of State, 260 U.S. App. D.C. 205, 818 F.2d 71, 78 (D.C.Cir. 1987); Abbotts v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 247 U.S. App. D.C. 114, 766 F.2d 604, 606 (D.C.Cir. 1985); Gardels v. CIA, 223 U.S. App. D.C. 88, 689 F.2d 1100, 1104 (D.C.Cir. 1982); Lesar v. United States Department of Justice, 204 U.S. App. D.C. 200, 636 F.2d 472, 481 (D.C.Cir. 1980); Halperin v. CIA, 203 U.S. App. D.C. 110, 629 F.2d 144, 147-48 (D.C.Cir. 1980). Specifically, we must grant summary judgment to the State Department "if its affidavits 'describe the withheld information and the justification for withholding with reasonable specificity, demonstrating a logical connection between the information and the claimed exemption,' and 'are not controverted by . . . contrary evidence in the record'" or "'evidence of agency bad faith.'" Abbotts, 766 F.2d at 606 (quoting Military Audit Project v. Casey, 211 U.S. App. D.C. 135, 656 F.2d 724, 738 (D.C.Cir. 1981)); see also Goldberg, 818 F.2d at 77-78; Gardels, 689 F.2d at 1104-05; Halperin, 629 F.2d at 148.
The information plaintiff seeks has been identified as concerning either foreign government information, foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, or a confidential source. See Exec. Order No. 12,356 § 1.3(a)(3), (5), (9), 47 Fed. Reg. 14,876. Section 1.3(b) of Executive Order 12,356 provides that such information "shall be classified when . . . its unauthorized disclosure, either by itself or in the context of other information, reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security." Id. § 1.3(b), 47 Fed. Reg. 14,876. Many of the withheld documents concern United States military bases in the Philippines. Others contain biographic information on foreign officials, confidential assessments of various economic and political situations in the Philippines and elsewhere, and information provided to United States officials in confidence by a foreign source.
The State Department's Eaves Declaration
is one hundred and forty-three (143) pages in length and describes in excruciating detail: how and at what level each of the withheld documents covered by the Vaughn index and challenged by plaintiff was classified;
its sender and recipient; the source of the information it contains; and why partial release was or was not possible. For each item, the Eaves Declaration explains why disclosure of the information is reasonably likely to cause damage, and in some cases serious damage, to the national security.
We have examined the State Department's rationales and find that they satisfy this Circuit's standard for summary judgment.
The Eaves Declaration describes the reasons for nondisclosure with at least as much specificity and logic as agencies have in numerous other cases upholding continued classification. See, e.g., Goldberg, 818 F.2d at 78 n. 7 ("Although the Eaves affidavit might have been more complete . . ., it certainly does an adequate job of justifying the current classification of the document excerpts. The affidavit demonstrates a careful, document-by-document and answer-by-answer review."); Halperin, 629 F.2d at 147-48; American Jewish Congress v. Department of the Treasury, 549 F. Supp. 1270, 1277-78 (D.D.C. 1982) (Disclosure would indicate that the United States was "unable or unwilling to maintain its commitments and uphold the usual standards of international practice with respect to . . . confidentiality."), aff'd without opinion, 230 U.S. App. D.C. 70, 713 F.2d 864, cert. denied, 464 U.S. 895, 78 L. Ed. 2d 233, 104 S. Ct. 244 (1983); Fulbright & Jaworski v. Department of the Treasury, 545 F. Supp. 615, 619 (D.D.C. 1982) (Release of document concerning past treaty negotiations probably would undermine the government's ability to achieve desired results in future treaty negotiations "because the document so clearly sets forth the U.S. goals, rationales and past experiences."). We are persuaded that the Eaves Declaration provides "ample evidence to show the plausibility of the alleged potential harm, in a manner that is reasonably detailed rather than conclusory." Halperin, 629 F.2d at 148. This Court declines to "conduct a detailed inquiry to decide whether it agrees with the agency's opinions," for we "lack the expertise necessary to second-guess such agency opinions in the typical national security FOIA case." Id.
The record is devoid of any contrary evidence or evidence of agency bad faith.
As enunciated in Goldberg, "contrary evidence must somehow undermine or call into question the correctness of the classification status of the withheld information, or the agency's explanation for the classification." Goldberg, 818 F.2d at 81. Plaintiff merely disagrees with the conclusions reached by the State Department as to the risk of damage to national security that would result from disclosure.
While requesters of information under FOIA may be expected to disagree with agency rationales for withholding certain information, plaintiff simply has not shown the type of contrary evidence Goldberg requires. Moreover, we find no evidence of agency bad faith. As discussed above, we disagree with plaintiff's assertion that the State Department's release of nineteen items manifests arbitrariness or bad faith.
Based on the foregoing, the Court concludes:
1) that under the circumstances of this case, the State Department properly released nineteen items instead of describing them in the Vaughn index, and that such release did not destroy the representativeness of the sample or evidence arbitrariness or bad faith; and