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Ryan v. Federal Bureau of Investigation

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

July 10, 2015

CINA A. RYAN, Plaintiff,

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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CINA A. RYAN, Plaintiff, Pro se, Chevy Chase, MD.


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Plaintiff Cina A. Ryan filed a FOIA request with the FBI seeking his " complete FBI file." The FBI conducted a search and found no responsive records, a result Plaintiff challenges in this lawsuit. Presently before the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 4) and Plaintiff's opposition thereto (ECF Nos. 7, 8). Defendants did not file a reply in support of their motion.[1] For the following reasons, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES without prejudice in part Defendants' motion.


Plaintiff believes he has been under constant FBI surveillance since shortly after

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the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (Compl. ¶ 8). In an effort to confirm this belief his counsel submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI in April 2010 for all records kept on him. (Compl. ¶ 24; Declaration of David Hardy [" Hardy Decl.] Ex. A at 3). The FBI responded with a letter stating there was no arrest record for Cina Ryan. (Hardy Decl. Ex. A at 4). Dissatisfied with this response, Plaintiff personally submitted a second FOIA request in October 2010 for his " complete FBI file." (Hardy Decl. ¶ 6, Ex. A at 1). The FBI responded on November 10, 2010 to state it located no responsive records and, to the extent Plaintiff sought " access to records that would either confirm or deny an individual's placement on any government watch list," the FBI would neither confirm nor deny the existence of such documents, pursuant to FOIA exemptions 2 and 7(E).[2] (Hardy Decl. Ex. E). Plaintiff appealed that response on December 2, 2010. (Hardy Decl. Ex. F). The Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy (OIP) affirmed the FBI's response on June 21, 2011.[3] (Hardy Decl. Ex. H). This suit followed.

A. The FBI's Records Systems

The FBI uses the Automated Case Support System (" ACS" ) to conduct FOIA searches of its Central Records System (" CRS" ). (Hardy Decl. ¶ 15). The CRS contains " administrative, applicant, criminal, personnel, and other files compiled for law enforcement purposes." ( Id. ). The system " consists of a numerical sequence of files, called FBI classifications, which are broken down according to subject matter." ( Id. ). The ACS is an " internal computerized subsystem of the CRS." ( Id. at ¶ 16). The CRS cannot be queried for data, so the information is instead " duplicated and moved to the ACS so that it can be searched." ( Id. ). A search of the ACS is accomplished by using alphabetized General Indices. ( Id. ¶ 17). The General Indices include main entries, which carry " the name corresponding with a subject of a file contained in the CRS," and reference entries, also called cross-references, which are " generally only a mere mention or reference to an individual, organization, or other subject matter contained in a document located in another main file on a different subject matter." ( Id. ). Certain records contained in the CRS are maintained at FBI headquarters, while some are maintained in field offices. ( Id. ¶ 15).

The ACS contains three integrated " applications that support case management functions for all FBI investigative and administrative cases." ( Id. ¶ 19). Investigative Case Management (" ICM" ) " provides the ability to open, assign, and close investigative and administrative cases as well as set, assign, and track leads." ( Id. ). Electronic Case File (" ECF" ) is the " central electronic repository for the FBI's official text-based documents." ( Id. ). The Universal Index (" UI" ) is a " complete subject/case index to all investigative and administrative cases." ( Id. ). The UI contains approximately 115.4 million records, and it " functions to index names to cases, and to search names and cases for use in FBI investigations." ( Id. ) The FBI " does not index every name in its files; rather,

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it indexes only that information considered to be pertinent, relevant, or essential for future retrieval." ( Id. ) " The General Indices to the CRS files are the means by which the FBI can determine what retrievable information, if any, the FBI may have in its CRS files on a particular subject matter or individual, e.g., 'Cina A. Ryan.'" ( Id. ). Data is input into these systems by both FBI headquarters and field offices. ( Id. ¶ 19).

The Electronic Surveillance indices (" ELSUR" ) " are used to maintain information on subjects whose electronic and/or voice communications have been intercepted as the result of a consensual electronic surveillance or a court-ordered (and/or sought) electronic surveillance conducted by the FBI." ( Id. ΒΆ 21). The ELSUR indices are separate from the CRS. They include " individuals who were the (a) targets of direct surveillance, (b) participants in monitored conversations, and (c) owners, lessors, or licensors of the premises where the FBI conducted electronic ...

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