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Rosenberg v. United States Department of Defense

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 11, 2014

CAROL ROSENBERG, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Defendant

Page 220

For CAROL ROSENBERG, Plaintiff: Chad R. Bowman, LEVINE SULLIVAN KOCH & SCHULZ, LLP, Washington, DC.

For DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Defendant: Kenneth Elliot Sealls, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Civil Division, Federal Programs Branch, Washington, DC.

Page 221

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BERYL A. HOWELL, United States District Judge.

The plaintiff, Carol Rosenberg, who is a reporter for The Miami Herald, filed a request for documents with the defendant, the Department of Defense, under the Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 552. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. The plaintiff generally seeks records pertaining to the cost of building and maintaining " the 'Camp 7' detention facility at Guantá namo [Bay, Cuba]" and information about " the firm(s) responsible for its construction." Id. ¶ 2. Pending before the Court is the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (" Def.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 12. For the reasons described below, the defendant's motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff's FOIA request sought " copies of all documents that reveal how much was spent to build a structure known as Camp 7 at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." Compl. Ex. A (Correspondence from plaintiff to defendant's Office of Freedom of Information, Apr. 9, 2009) (the " Request" ) at 1, ECF No. 1-1. The defendant responded to the plaintiff's request by letter in June, 2010, stating that the defendant located one record, " totaling one page," which " is exempt from release in its entirety pursuant to" the FOIA's Exemption 1, Exemption 2, and Exemption 6, 5 U.S.C. § § 552(b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(6). Compl. Ex. C (Correspondence from Paul Jacobsmeyer, Chief, Office of Freedom of Information, Department of Defense to plaintiff, date stamped June 4, 2010) at 1, ECF No. 1-3. Exemption 1 allows a government agency to withhold from disclosure agency records that are " currently and properly classified; " Exemption 2 allows the withholding of records that " pertain[] solely to the internal rules and practices of the agency; " and Exemption 6 protects from disclosure " the release of [information] which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of individuals." Id.

The plaintiff appealed the defendant's determination, see Compl. Ex. D (Correspondence from plaintiff to James Hogan, Director of Administration Management, Department of Defense, June 26, 2010) at 1, ECF No. 1-4, and her appeal was denied, see Compl. Ex. E (Correspondence from William E. Brazis, Deputy Director, Department of Defense to plaintiff, date stamped Aug. 20, 2013) at 1, ECF No. 1-5. The plaintiff subsequently filed this lawsuit, alleging that the defendant failed to conduct a reasonable search for records responsive to the plaintiff's request, Compl. ¶ ¶ 33-34, and improperly withheld responsive records, id. ¶ ¶ 35-37.

The defendant timely moved for summary judgment, and filed " two declarations (one classified and filed ex parte and in camera )" in support of its motion. Def.'s Mot. at 1.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Congress enacted the FOIA as a means " to 'open agency action to the light of public scrutiny.'"

Page 222

ACLU v. United States DOJ, 750 F.3d 927, 929, 409 U.S.App.D.C. 431 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting Dep't of Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 361, 96 S.Ct. 1592, 48 L.Ed.2d 11 (1976)). As the Supreme Court has " consistently recognized [] the basic objective of the Act is disclosure." Chrysler Corp. v. Brown, 441 U.S. 281, 290, 99 S.Ct. 1705, 60 L.Ed.2d 208 (1979). At the same time, the statute represents a " balance [of] the public's interest in governmental transparency against legitimate governmental and private interests that could be harmed by release of certain types of information." United Techs. Corp., Pratt & Whitney Div. v. United States DOD., 601 F.3d 557, 559 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Reflecting that balance, the FOIA contains nine exemptions set forth in 5 U.S.C. § 552(b), which " are explicitly made exclusive and must be narrowly construed." Milner v. U.S. Dep't of Navy, 562 U.S. 562, 131 S.Ct. 1259, 1262, 179 L.Ed.2d 268 (2011) (internal quotations and citations omitted) (citing FBI v. Abramson, 456 U.S. 615, 630, 102 S.Ct. 2054, 72 L.Ed.2d 376 (1982)); see Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Wash. v. U.S. Dep't of Justice (CREW), 746 F.3d 1082, 1088, 409 U.S.App.D.C. 113 (D.C. ...


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