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Roman v. Dailey

May 08, 1998

GILBERT ROMAN, PLAINTIFF, V. J. R. DAILEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman, United States District Judge.

Defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment [15] treated as a motion for summary judgment GRANTED; plaintiff's motions for a Vaughn Index [17], production of documents [20], the release of information [21], and to enter a decision or summary judgment [25] DENIED; and judgment entered in favor of the defendants. All other pending motions denied as moot.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: PAUL L. FRIEDMAN

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff brought this action to challenge the responses he received from three federal agencies from whom he requested records under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. at 552. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, responded to defendants' motion. Having reviewed the complaint, defendants' motion, plaintiff's responses and the entire record herein, and the Court having considered the declarations submitted by defendants, the Court will treat defendants' motion as a motion for summary judgment and will grant the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Gilbert Roman, a state prisoner incarcerated at the Riverview Correctional Facility in Ogdensburg, New York, sent letters to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA"), the National Reconnaissance Office ("NRO"), and the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA"), requesting records related to himself and his parents, and various information about an "8X spy satellite program" and satellites able "to read the pulses and patterns of the human brain." See Defendants' Statement of Material Facts As To Which There Is No Genuine Issue ("Defs.' Stmt."), PP 1, 7, 16, and Exhibit ("Exh."), 1. *fn1 NASA responded by stating that it had no records responsive to plaintiff's request. Declaration of Mark R. J. Borsi ("Borsi Decl."), P 4; Defs.' Stmt., Exhibit 2. The NRO gave a response similar to NASA's, except that with respect to all requests regarding satellites it stated that it could neither confirm nor deny that any responsive records exist. Declaration of Barbara E. Freimann ("Freimann Decl."), PP 6-9. The CIA also denied plaintiff's request in part, providing a "neither confirm nor deny" response similar to the NRO's. Declaration of Lee S. Strickland ("Strickland Decl."), PP 6-12. Plaintiff appealed each of these responses; his appeals were denied and he then filed this action.

II. DISCUSSION

Before addressing the adequacy of each defendant's declaration in support of the motion, it is appropriate to first deal with plaintiff's primary and overarching argument that he needs the documents requested to support his petition for pending in another court. That fact, however, does not give plaintiff any greater rights under the FOIA than any other person would have. The merits of an agency's FOIA determinations do not rest on the identity of the requester or the purpose for which the information is intended to be used. United States Dep't of Justice v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749, 770-71, 103 L. Ed. 2d 774, 109 S. Ct. 1468 (1989). Rather, records, if not properly exempt, must be made available to "any person." 5 U.S.C. at 552(a)(3). Thus, plaintiff has no greater or lesser rights to the requested information than any other person.

A. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA conducted a search of its central agency-wide record system, and the Directors of Security for each NASA center searched their local records for documents related to plaintiff, his parents, and an "8x spy satellite program." Borsi Decl., PP 3, 4. No responsive records of any kind were found. Id., P 4. Plaintiff argues that NASA's search for responsive records was inadequate.

The FOIA does not require an agency to conduct an exhaustive search for all documents responsive to a request, but rather a reasonable search for requested records using "methods reasonably expected to produce the information requested." Oglesby v. United States Dep't of the Army, 287 U.S. App. D.C. 126, 920 F.2d 57, 68 (D.C. Cir. 1990). "In the absence of countervailing evidence or apparent inconsistency of proof, affidavits [or declarations] that explain in reasonable detail the scope and method of the search conducted by the agency will suffice to demonstrate compliance with the obligations imposed by the FOIA." Perry v. Block, 221 U.S. App. D.C. 347, 684 F.2d 121, 127 (D.C. Cir. 1982). See The Nation Magazine v. United States Customs Service, 315 U.S. App. D.C. 177, 71 F.3d 885, 890 (D.C. Cir. 1995).

Plaintiff challenges the adequacy of NASA's search because it did not uncover information about an "8x spy satellite program" that he claims is available in public sources. The public source plaintiff chiefly relies on for this argument, a book entitled USA IN SPACE, does not support his claim. That book's discussion of spy satellites details their military development and use since 1959, but makes no mention of an "8x spy satellite program" or any satellites with the ability "to read the pulses and patterns of the human brain." Defs.' Stmt., Exh. 1 (Plaintiff's FOIA Request); see USA IN SPACE 735-738 (Frank N. Magill & Russell R. Tobias eds., 1st ed. 1996). "Mere speculation that as yet uncovered documents may exist does not undermine the finding that the agency conducted a reasonable search for them." SafeCard Services, Inc. v. Securities and Exchange Comm'n, 288 U.S. App. D.C. 324, 926 F.2d 1197, 1201 (D.C. Cir. 1991). Presented with plaintiff's FOIA request, and there being no contrary evidence of the existence of responsive records and no evidence of agency bad faith, the Court concludes that NASA's search of its files was adequate and its response sufficient.

B. National Reconnaissance Office

Plaintiff does not make any challenges specific to the NRO's declaration. The NRO searched appropriate databases and hardcopy records from "each internal NRO component office that could reasonably be expected to have responsive records" and found no records regarding plaintiff. Freimann Decl. P 8. The Court finds this to be an ...


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