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TRULOCK v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

March 31, 2003

NOTRA TRULOCK, III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Notra Trulock III served as both the Director of the Office of Intelligence and the Director of the Office of Counterintelligence for the U.S. Department of Energy ("DOE") from 1995 to 1998, during which time he was responsible for managing all intelligence and counterintelligence activities within the DOE and its laboratories. He brings this action pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief requiring three separate federal agencies, the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA"), and the Department of Energy ("DOE") to provide him with copies of all records in their possession referring or relating to himself.

Presently pending before this Court are defendant Central Intelligence Agency's motion for partial summary judgment and defendant Department of Energy's motion for summary judgment.

I. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment should be granted pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 56 only if no genuine issues of material fact exist and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986) In ruling upon a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986); Bayer v. United States Dep't of Treasury, 956 F.2d 330, 333 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

In a suit brought to compel production pursuant to FOIA, an agency is entitled to summary judgment "if no material facts are in dispute and if it demonstrates `that each document that falls within the class requested either has been produced . . . or is wholly exempt from the Act's inspection requirements.'" Students Against Genocide v. U.S. Dep't of State, 257 F.3d 828, 833 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (quoting Goland v. CIA, 607 F.2d 339, 352 (D.C. Cir. 1978)); see Billington v. United States Dep't of Justice, 233 F.3d 581, 583-84 (D.C. Cir. 2000). On the other hand, summary judgment is appropriate for a FOIA plaintiff when the requested material, "even on the agency's version of the facts, falls outside the proffered exemption." Petroleum Inf. Corp. v. United States Dep't of Interior, 976 F.2d 1429, 1433 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

Under FOIA, the court reviews the agency's decision to withhold records under one of the statute's nine exemptions de novo. Dep't of Justice v. Reporters' Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749, 755, 109 S.Ct. 1468, 1472 (1989). The withholding agency bears the burden of establishing that the withheld information qualifies for a statutory exemption from disclosure. See id. at 754-55 ("the FOIA expressly places the burden `on the agency to sustain its action' and directs the district courts to `determine the matter de novo.') (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 552 (a)(3)). That burden may be satisfied through submission of an agency declaration describing the material withheld with reasonable specificity, as well as the reasons for non-disclosure, and, if necessary, a Vaughn index. Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820, 826-28 (D.C. Cir. 1973). When reviewing a motion for summary judgment under FOIA, the Court must view facts in the light most favorable to the party requesting information from the agency. Weisberg v. United States Dep't of Justice, 745 F.2d 1476, 1485 (D.C. Cir. 1984)

B. FOIA Standards

The D.C. Circuit has described the overall purpose and framework of the FOIA as follows:

The Freedom of Information Act was conceived in an effort to permit access by the citizenry to most forms of government records. In essence, the Act provides that all documents are available to the public unless specifically exempted by the Act itself. This court has repeatedly stated that these exemptions from disclosure must be construed narrowly, in such a way as to provide maximum access consonant with the overall purpose of the Act.
Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820, 823 (D.C. Cir. 1973). Accordingly, plaintiff's claims and defendants' motions must be viewed in light of the statutory presumption of, and "overwhelming emphasis" on, disclosure. Id.

II. CIA MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

On July 25 and 28, 2000, plaintiff submitted a request, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), for all records in the CIA's possession referring or relating to him. On August 2, 2000, the CIA acknowledged plaintiff's requests, denied his request for expedited processing, waived customary processing fees, and informed him that, due to its heavy backlog of requests, it would be unable to process his request within 20 days as required by FOIA. Plaintiff commenced this action on September 18, 2000 in an effort to compel the CIA to produce all records responsive to his FOIA request.

Since that date, the CIA located a total of 488 documents responsive to plaintiff's request. (McNair Decl. ¶ 11). By letter to plaintiff's counsel dated February 22, 2002, 26 records were released in their entirety and 120 redacted records were released in part. Id. ¶ 13 and Ex. 1. The CIA has subsequently indicated its intention to release one additional record in full and 6 additional redacted records. Def.'s Mot. at 3. One hundred and twenty one records containing information originating from one of 13 other agencies were sent to those agencies for coordination. Id. ¶¶ 12, 13. Thirty six records originating with other agencies were referred to those agencies for review and direct response to plaintiff. Id. ¶ 12. The CIA does not seek summary judgment with respect to these ...


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