United States District Court, District of Columbia
REGGIE B. WALTON United States District Judge
The plaintiff, Electronic Privacy Information Center, submitted a request to the defendant, Customs and Border Protection, a component of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2012), seeking documents relating to the defendant’s Analytical Framework for Intelligence system. Complaint (“Compl.”) ¶ 2. The defendant has produced, in whole or in part, some responsive documents in response to the FOIA request, and withheld certain other materials pursuant to Exemption 7(E) of the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E). Currently pending before the Court are the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.’s Mot.”), ECF No. 18, and the Plaintiff’s Combined Opposition to [the] Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (“Pl.’s Mot.”), ECF No. 20. Upon careful consideration of the parties’ submissions, the Court concludes that the defendant’s motion must be denied and the plaintiff’s motion must be granted in part and denied in part.
The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. The plaintiff submitted its FOIA request to the defendant in April 2014, seeking information primarily relating to the defendant’s Analytical Framework for Intelligence (“AFI”) system. Def.’s Facts ¶ 1; Pl.’s Facts ¶ 1. According to the defendant, the AFI system “enhances DHS’s ability to identify, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who pose a potential law enforcement or security risk; and it aids in the enforcement of customs and immigration laws, and other laws enforced by DHS at the border.” Def.’s Facts ¶ 2 (quoting Notice, Analytical Framework for Intelligence (AFI) System, 77 Fed. Reg. 33753, 33753 (June 7, 2012)). But see Pl.’s Facts ¶ 2 (partially disputing matters set forth in Def.’s Facts ¶ 2). In addition, the defendant states that the AFI system “improves the efficiency and effectiveness of [Customs and Border Protection’s] research and analysis process by providing a platform for the research, collaboration, approval, and publication of finished intelligence products.” Def.’s Facts ¶ 2 (quoting 77 Fed. Reg. at 33753). But see Pl.’s Facts ¶ 2 (partially disputing matters set forth in Def.’s Facts ¶ 2).
The plaintiff’s FOIA request sought four categories of information:
1. All AFI training modules, request forms, and similar final guidance documents that are used in, or will be used in, the operation of the program;
2. Any records, memos, opinions, communications, or other documents that discuss potential or actual sources of information not currently held in DHS databases, or potential or actual uses of information not currently held in DHS databases;
3. Any records, contracts, or other communications with commercial data aggregators regarding the AFI program; [and]
4. The Privacy Compliance Report initiated in August of 2013.
Def.’s Mot., Exhibit (“Ex.”) B at 2; Pl.’s Mot., Ex. 1 at 1. After the defendant failed to comply with the plaintiff’s FOIA request within the statutory deadline, the plaintiff initiated this suit. Def.’s Facts ¶ 3; Pl.’s Facts ¶ 1. Subsequently, the defendant located 358 pages of responsive records of which 89 were released in full, 267 were partially released, and 2 pages were withheld in full. Def.’s Facts ¶ 4; Pl.’s Facts ¶ 1. One of the documents initially withheld in full, the Privacy Compliance Report, is no longer being withheld and has been produced to the plaintiff by the defendant. Def.’s Facts ¶ 5; Pl.’s Facts ¶ 1. The information not produced was withheld by the defendant pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 3, 4, 6, 7(C), and 7(E), 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3), (b)(4), (b)(6), (b)(7)(C), (b)(7)(E). Def.’s Facts ¶ 5; Pl.’s Facts ¶ 1. The plaintiff no longer challenges the defendant’s withholdings under Exemptions 3, 4, 6, and 7(C), Pl.’s Mem. at 6; Def.’s Reply at 2, but continues to challenge the defendant’s withholdings in full or in part information contained in 314 pages under Exemption 7(E), Pl.’s Mem. at 6.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court must grant a motion for summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)). The Court must therefore draw “all justifiable inferences” in the non-moving party’s favor and accept the non-moving party’s evidence as true. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The non-moving party, however, cannot rely on “mere allegations or denials.” Burke v. Gould, 286 F.3d 513, 517 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Thus, “[c]onclusory allegations unsupported by factual data will not create a triable issue of fact.” Pub. Citizen Health Research Grp. v. Food & Drug Admin., 185 F.3d 898, 908 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (quoting Exxon Corp. v Fed. Trade Comm’n, 663 F.2d 120, 126-27 (D.C. Cir. 1980)) (alteration in original). If the Court concludes that “the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [its] case with respect to which [it] has the burden of proof, ” then the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Moreover, “in ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, the [C]ourt shall grant summary judgment only if one of the moving parties is entitled to judgment as a matter of law upon material facts that are not genuinely disputed.” Shays v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 424 F.Supp.2d 100, 109 (D.D.C. 2006) (citation omitted).
FOIA cases are typically resolved on motions for summary judgment. Ortiz v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 67 F.Supp.3d 109, 116 (D.D.C. 2014); Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S. Border Patrol, 623 F.Supp.2d 83, 87 (D.D.C. 2009). “[The] FOIA requires federal agencies to disclose, upon request, broad classes of agency records unless the records are covered by the statute’s exemptions.” Students Against Genocide v. Dep’t of State, 257 F.3d 828, 833 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). In a FOIA action, the defendant agency has “[the] burden of demonstrating that the withheld documents [requested by the FOIA requester] are exempt from disclosure.” Boyd v. Dep’t of Justice, 475 F.3d 381, 385 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). The Court will grant summary judgment to the government in a FOIA case only if the agency can prove “that it has fully discharged its obligations under the FOIA, after the underlying facts and the inferences to be drawn from them are construed in the light most favorable to the FOIA requester.” Friends of Blackwater v. Dep’t of Interior, 391 F.Supp.2d 115, 119 (D.D.C. 2005) (quoting Greenberg v. U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, 10 F.Supp.2d 3, 11 (D.D.C. 1998)). To satisfy its burden and prove that it has fully discharged its FOIA obligations, a defendant agency typically submits a Vaughn index, which provides “a relatively detailed justification” for each withheld document, “specifically identifying the reasons why a particular exemption is relevant and correlating those claims with the particular part of [the] withheld document to which they apply.” King v. Dep’t of Justice, 830 F.2d 210, 219 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (quoting Mead Data Cent. v. U.S. Dep’t of Air Force, 566 F.2d 242, 251 (D.C. Cir. 1977)); see alsoVaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820, 826-27 (D.C. Cir. 1973) (setting forth requirements for agency’s description of documents withheld to allow a court to ...