Once information has been disclosed pursuant to the authority of a high government official, there is no basis to argue that a privacy interest continues to exist. See Nation Magazine v. United States Customs Service., 315 U.S. App. D.C. 177, 71 F.3d 885 (D.C. Cir. 1995). Accordingly, the information that was disclosed to the press on the authority of the United States Attorney for the District of Indiana must be released to the general public as well. This would include the Plaintiff.
The Government has stated that it will be difficult for it to recreate the file that was released to the press by AUSA Thar. The onus is on the Government to satisfy the Court, that the material to be released to the Plaintiff is the same as was released to the reporter for the Indianapolis Star. The Defendant will be given 30 days to release the information.
The Government has also asserted Exemption 7(C) with regard to the OPR files relating to its investigation of the disclosure of the DEA files. The Government claims that it has invoked the exemption in order to protect the privacy interests of the AUSA who was the subject of the OPR investigation as well as the privacy of other individuals who are identified in the files.
As to this category of documents the Court finds that the privacy rights of the individuals outweigh the public interest in disclosure. In this regard, public employees have an expectation that information gathered in the course of internal investigations will remain private. Beck v. Department of Justice, 302 U.S. App. D.C. 287, 997 F.2d 1489, 1494 (D.C. Cir. 1993). While the public does have an interest in examining the internal disciplinary processes of the Department of Justice, such public interest cannot be held to be superior to the privacy interests of those employees who may, from time to time, come under the scrutiny of OPR. It would be grossly unfair to release such information and subject dedicated public servants to unnecessary scrutiny for every complaint that has been filed, regardless of the merits.
Plaintiff has provided this Court with a press article in which an unnamed Official of the Justice Department confirmed the existence of the OPR investigation and AUSA Thar has publicly acknowledged the same. Such limited disclosure cannot in and of itself serve to waive the application of Exemption 7(C). While express disclosure by individuals involved in specific matters may serve to waive privacy rights, the limited disclosure that occurred in this case does not warrant a finding that the agency or the individuals involved have waived their privacy rights. See Nations Magazine, supra.
To the extent that the DEA file was released to the press upon authority of a high Justice Department official with apparent authority to make such disclosures, it also must be released to the Plaintiff. With regard to the OPR files, the Government has properly invoked Exemption 7(C) and may continue to withhold such information from public disclosure. An appropriate order follows this Memorandum Opinion.
United States District Court
These matters come before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated in the Court's Memorandum Opinion of this date it is hereby
ORDERED that to the extent that Plaintiff seeks material that previously has been released to the press, upon the authorization of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Indiana, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and Defendants' motion for summary judgment is DENIED. It is further
ORDERED that within 30 days from the date of this Order, the Defendant shall release to the Plaintiff all documents that previously have been released to the press. It is further
ORDERED that, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment requesting files from the Office of Professional Responsibility, is DENIED and Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.
This Court retains jurisdiction to issue such further Orders as may be necessary to effectuate this decision.
United States District Court
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