the course of their employment; (5) names and identifying data regarding third parties; (6) identities of third parties who are subjects of an FBI investigative file; and (7) witnesses and third parties interviewed in the course of an FBI investigation. See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants' [Revised] Motion for Summary Judgment, at 7.
The withholding of each of these categories of material pursuant to Exemption (b)(7)(C) is well-founded in the law. "Exemption 7(C) affords broad privacy rights to suspects, witnesses, and investigators . . ." in criminal investigations. Safecard Services, Inc., 926 F.2d at 1205. Obviously, any individual who participates in a law enforcement investigation has a strong privacy interest in keeping his or her name, together with any details that would tend to identify the individual, from the public view. "The disclosure of records containing personal details about private citizens can infringe significant privacy interests." United States Dep't of Justice v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749, 766, 103 L. Ed. 2d 774, 109 S. Ct. 1468 (1989). Especially in the context of criminal investigations, government officials, and those individuals who cooperate with government officials, risk annoyance, harassment, and substantial danger if publicly identified. Lesar v. United States Dep't of Justice, 204 U.S. App. D.C. 200, 636 F.2d 472, 487 (D.C. Cir. 1980).
Individuals whose names are mentioned during the course of an investigation have an even greater privacy interest. "An individual whose name surfaces in connection with an investigation may without more, become the subject of rumor and innuendo." Fund for Constitutional Gov't v. Nat'l Archives and Records Serv., 211 U.S. App. D.C. 267, 656 F.2d 856, 863 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (quoting Congressional News Syndicate v. United States Department of Justice, 438 F. Supp. 538, 541 (D.D.C. 1977).
Given the substantial privacy interests in the information withheld in this case, the public interest in disclosure of the identity of the individuals must be great in order to justify release of the information. No such public interest exists. The Court has reviewed each assertion of Exemption (b)(7)(C) and the Defendant's reliance on the Exemption was proper. The information contained in the withheld portions of the relevant documents will not "shed light on an agency's performance of its statutory duties . . . . " Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. at 773. Nor is the information "probative of an agency's behavior or performance." Safecard Services, Inc., 926 F.2d at 1205. Absent evidence of such agency misconduct, an agency need not disclose the names and identifying descriptions of individuals supplying information to the agency in the law enforcement context. See id. at 1206. The Plaintiff in this case has come forward with no such evidence of misconduct, the privacy interest outweighs the public interest in disclosure, and the release of the withheld information could reasonably constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
The Defendants also claim that they are entitled to withhold certain information under Exemption (b)(7)(D), the FOIA provision exempting from disclosure confidential sources and the information obtained therefrom. A person or agency is a confidential source if the person or agency provided information under an assurance of confidentiality, either explicit or inferred. Birch v. United States Postal Service, 256 U.S. App. D.C. 128, 803 F.2d 1206, 1212 (D.C. Cir. 1986). Furthermore, a presumption exists that "information obtained by an agency during the course of a criminal investigation has been procured pursuant to an assurance of confidentiality." Parker v. Dep't of Justice, 290 U.S. App. D.C. 87, 934 F.2d 375, 378 (D.C. Cir. 1991).
The Defendants assert Exemption (b)(7)(D) to withhold a variety of information, specifically: (1) source symbol numbers, source file numbers, and dates of contact with confidential sources; (2) the identity of and/or information furnished by an FBI source reporting on a regular basis; (3) named third parties who provided information and/or information provided by them under an implied or express promise of confidentiality; (4) identities and/or information provided by non-federal law enforcement agencies; and (5) identities and/or information from private institutions and non-law enforcement agencies.
As the Court has stated supra, the Defendant has established that the records in this case were created during the course of a criminal investigation. Consequently, a presumption of confidentiality arises. Id. The Plaintiff in this case has not only failed to overcome this presumption, he has put forward no argument or evidence to rebut the presumption. Furthermore, the Court concludes that the presumption of confidentiality is appropriate in this case. The documents containing withheld information were produced pursuant to FBI interviews with individuals who provided information relating to criminal investigations. The success of FBI investigations depends in large measure upon such information, which would not be forthcoming if the interviewees had to worry about possible "harassment, ridicule, or retaliation" from their participation. Keys v. United States Dep't of Justice, 265 U.S. App. D.C. 189, 830 F.2d 337, 345-46 (D.C. Cir. 1987).
Thus, the Defendants have sustained their burden of showing, with as much detail as possible, that the withheld portions of the responsive records fall within Exemptions (b)(7)(C) and (b)(7)(D).
Finally, the Court must reject the Plaintiff's request to review the withheld portions of the documents in camera. In camera review of withheld documents is "generally disfavored." Schiller v. National Labor Relations Bd., 296 U.S. App. D.C. 84, 964 F.2d 1205, 1209 (D.C. Cir. 1992). The Plaintiff has failed to come forward with any substantive evidence of bad faith on the part of the Defendants that would warrant such a review. The Plaintiff relies on a passage in this Court's Order of December 13, 1991, in support of his allegations of bad faith. However, the Plaintiff misconstrues the contents of the December 13, 1991, Order. The Court issued the Order because the Defendants had failed to explain the apparent omission of two pages from Document 28. As the Court stated, "this alleged omission raises a question as to the adequacy and good faith of the agency's search . . . ." Order, at 3.
The Court recognized, however, that the two omitted pages might have been included as part of Document 26. The Fourth Declaration of Regina Superneau, filed on December 20, 1991, confirmed that the pages were part of Document 26, and the ambiguity was resolved. Consequently, no grounds currently exist to doubt the good faith of the Defendants in the search and subsequent release of relevant documents in this case. Any in camera review would be unnecessary and inappropriate, notwithstanding the unsupported allegations of the Plaintiff.
Upon consideration of the Defendants' Revised Motion for Summary Judgment, the Plaintiff's opposition thereto, the applicable law, and the record herein, the Court finds that the Defendants are entitled to summary judgment against the Plaintiff. The Defendants have conducted an adequate search for records responsive to the Plaintiff's FOIA request, and the responsive information withheld by the Defendants clearly falls within FOIA exemptions (b)(7)(C) and (b)(7)(D). The Court shall issue an Order of even date herewith consistent with the foregoing Opinion.
May 17, 1993
CHARLES R. RICHEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
JUDGMENT - May 17, 1993, Filed
Upon consideration of the Revised Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Defendants, the Plaintiff's opposition thereto, the applicable law, and for the reasons articulated in this Court's Opinion of even date herewith, it is, by the Court, this 17 day of May, 1993,
ORDERED that the Defendants' Revised Motion for Summary Judgment shall be, and hereby is, GRANTED, and that Judgment in the above-captioned case shall be, and hereby is, entered for the DEFENDANT; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the above-captioned case shall be, and hereby is, DISMISSED from the dockets of this Court.