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Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep't of Defense

June 28, 2006

JUDICIAL WATCH, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Judicial Watch, Inc. brings this action against the Department of Defense ("DOD") under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552 et seq., challenging the adequacy of DOD's response to its FOIA request. DOD contends that its response was adequate and that it has released all responsive, nonexempt documents to Judicial Watch. Before the court are the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motions, the oppositions thereto, and the record of the case, the court concludes that DOD's motion must be granted and Judicial Watch's motion must be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Judicial Watch is a non-profit member of the news media that collects, publishes, and disseminates information about government operations and activities. Judicial Watch's stated goal is to "increase public understanding about the importance of ethics and the rule of law in government." Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Mot."), Ex. B ("FOIA Request") at 5.

On March 23, 2004, Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to DOD seeking seven categories of records pertaining to:

(1) the "Empower Peace" website, a website for an initiative aimed at "mending the 'vacuum' of understanding that exists between the Muslim world and the U.S.," FOIA Request at 8;

(2) DOD funding and/or sponsorship of parties involved with the website;

(3) Iraqi National Congress funding and/or sponsorship of parties involved with the website;

(4) the Rendon Group, the media consultancy firm that maintains the website, from September 11, 2001 through March 23, 2004;

(5) the names of all corporations used, engaged and/or contracted by DOD as media consultants, from September 11, 2001 through March 2, 2004;

(6) the names of all corporations used, engaged and/or contracted by DOD for "strategic influence, perception management, strategic information warfare and/or strategic psychological operations," id. at 2, from September 11, 2001 through March 23, 2004; and

(7) a paper entitled, "Information Operations Roadmap," reportedly discussed by the Assistant Deputy Director for Information Operations at a conference held in London on July 3, 2003.

Id. at 1--2.

On January 28, 2005, more than nine months after the date of the FOIA request, DOD released documents responsive to items 4 and 5. DOD failed, however, to provide any items relating to the remaining items. Consequently, Judicial Watch initiated this lawsuit on February 25, 2005. Two months later, by letter dated April 20, 2005, DOD informed Judicial Watch that they were not able to locate any records responsive to items 1, 2, 3, and 6. On July 26, 2005, DOD released documents responsive to item 7. Having obtained documents responsive to items 4, 5, and 7, Judicial Watch concedes that the sole issue remaining with regard to Judicial ...


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