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Freedom Watch, Inc. v. Department of State

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 27, 2013

FREEDOM WATCH, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, et al., Defendants.

Page 56

Larry E. Klayman, Law Office of Larry Klayman, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Gregory Peter Dworkowitz, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, District Judge.

Freedom Watch, Inc., sues the United States Departments of State, Treasury,

Page 57

Defense, and Commerce, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency for allegedly failing to respond properly to its Freedom of Information Act requests. Because Freedom Watch did not file proper requests, it has not exhausted its administrative remedies and has raced to court too soon. The Complaint will be dismissed and Freedom Watch's motion for partial summary judgment will be denied as moot.

I. FACTS

The Complaint says only that Freedom Watch is a public interest foundation that seeks " to promote openness within the federal government and their actions." Compl. [Dkt. 1] ¶ 2. On January 23, 2012, Freedom Watch sent a request under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (" FOIA" ), to the Defendant Agencies. Compl. ¶ 4. Freedom Watch says that it wanted information about waivers the Department of State may have granted to citizens, corporations, or other countries to trade with Iran despite very tough sanctions against that country to prevent its development of nuclear missiles. Id. Specifically, Freedom Watch sought:

[A]ll correspondence, memoranda, documents, reports, records, statements, audits, lists of names, applications, diskettes, letters, expense logs and receipts, calendar or diary logs, facsimile logs, telephone records call sheets, tape recordings, video/movie recordings, notes, examinations, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, drawings, charts, photographs, electronic mail, and other documents and things that refer or relate to the following in any way, within (10) business days as set forth below....

Id.

Thereafter, a list of 63 categories of records was described, as set forth in the Complaint, ranging from " (1) [i]nternational sanctions (diplomatic, economic, military, or otherwise) created and/or signed into law by the United States, United States [sic] or the European Union against the country of Iran," to (63) " [a]ny and all enumerated documents and things which discuss Iran in the context of American politics and/or elections from 1992 to the present." Id. ¶ 4(1) & (63). As to each category, Freedom Watch requested " all" records that " refer or relate" to that category. Id. ¶ 4. Freedom Watch also sought a fee waiver from each agency on the basis that " [a]ny waiver of these sanctions may aid Iran in achieving nuclear weapons and thus put [ ] American citizens at risk," which waivers, if any, it would publicize on its website. See, e.g., Decl. of Justin Guz, Defs. Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss (" MTD Mem." ), Ex. A [Dkt. 4-1], Ex. 1, at 5 (fee waiver request as to Department of Commerce). From each agency, Freedom Watch requested expedited processing because the records are " of urgent importance and ... in the extreme public interest," about which " [t]he American people need to be informed expeditiously ... as it [sic] affects their immediate well being, economically and otherwise." Compl. ¶ 6; see also, e.g., Guz Decl., Ex. 1, at 5 (discussing request to expedite as to Department of Commerce).

A. Defendant Agencies' Responses

1. Department of Commerce

Commerce received the FOIA request on January 24, 2012, and responded in writing on February 3, 2012, ten days later. Guz Decl. ¶ 2. Commerce denied the request for a fee waiver and expedited processing and explained its administrative appeals procedure. Id. ¶ 3. Freedom Watch did ...


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