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Thomas v. Federal Aviation Administration

January 25, 2007

KEITH THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, brings this action allegingthat a number of federal agencies and departments have refused to provide him with information regarding the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and other criminal investigations. He names as defendants the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"), Robert Mueller, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, and John Does at the following agencies and departments of the federal government: the Department of the Navy, the United States Marines, the Department of the Air Force, the Department of the Army, the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA"), the FBI, the United States Coast Guard, the Government Accountability Office ("GAO"), the Department of Energy ("DOE"), the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS"), the United States Customs Service,*fn1 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATFE"), and the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC"). Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that he requested information from the FAA, ICE, CIA, FBI and the Department of Defense, including all the military service branches, regarding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Compl. at 5, 7-8.*fn2 From the CBP and Coast Guard, Plaintiff requested records of drug seizures from 1942 to 2006. Id. at 12, 13. Plaintiff claims that he requested records from ATFE and FBI regarding the "George L. Jackson Brigande," the Black Panthers, and the "S.L.A.." Id. at 12. In addition, Plaintiff sought FBI records on a large number of investigations. Id. at 13.

Plaintiff claims that he sent a request to the CIA for documents pertaining to Osama Bin Laden, Manuel Noreiga, Fidel Castro, and all projects conducted by the agency. Id. Plaintiff requested that the GAO provide him with a list of the services the agency provides to the public. Id. at 14. Plaintiff alleges that he made document requests -- not specified in the complaint -- to the DOE and the FCC. Id. The agencies did not respond to plaintiff's requests. Id.

As part of this litigation, the FAA searched its National Tracking System ("NTS"), which contains the agency's information on FOIA requests made to FAA's headquarters office or to one of its regional or component offices. Decl. of Melanie Yohe ¶¶ 3, 4. The NTS includes the FOIA requester's name and address, the subject matter, and the date of the request. Id. ¶ 4. The FAA conducted a search for Plaintiff's request under his name and by the subject "9-11." Id. ¶ 5. The FAA records do not contain any document requests from plaintiff. Id.

The FBI conducted a search of its FOIPA Document Processing System, which contains the agency's officials records of all FOIA and Privacy Act requests. Decl. of David M. Hardy ¶ 6. The FBI did not find any record of a document request from Plaintiff. Id.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of a plaintiff. Taylor v. FDIC, 132 F.3d 753, 761 (D.C.Cir. 1997). " [A] complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46; Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276. "Indeed it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recovery is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, 515 (2002) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Material facts are those that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

In considering whether there is a triable issue of fact, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The party opposing a motion for summary judgment, however, "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The non-moving party must do more than simply "show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Moreover, any factual assertions in the movant's affidavits will be accepted as being true unless the opposing party submits his own affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting the assertion. Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C.Cir.1992).

III. ANALYSIS

As an initial matter, the Court must determine the nature of Plaintiff's cause of action. Federal courts can "ignore the legal label that a pro se litigant attaches" to a pleading "to create a better correspondence between the substance of a ... claim and its underlying legal basis." Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 381 (2003). In the complaint, Plaintiff cites the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701, et seq., and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agencts of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) as the bases for his claims. The essence of Plaintiff's claims, however, is that federal agencies improperly withhold documents requested by him. FOIA grants federal district courts jurisdiction to enjoin ...


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