United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. Mehta United States District Judge.
Electronic Privacy Information Center brings this Freedom of
Information Act (“FOIA”) action against Defendant
Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), seeking
disclosure of unpublished privacy assessments prepared by the
agency. These assessments, known as “Privacy Impact
Assessments” and “Privacy Threshold Analyses,
” are designed to evaluate whether the FBI's
information technology systems effectively protect sensitive
personal information that comes into the agency's
possession. The FBI produced the privacy assessments sought
by Plaintiff but with heavy redactions.
action is before the court on the parties' cross motions
for summary judgment. Plaintiff contends that the FBI failed
to: (1) conduct an adequate search; (2) justify its
redactions of the privacy assessments under FOIA Exemption
7(E); and (3) demonstrate that it disclosed all reasonably
segregable portions of the records responsive to
Plaintiff's request. Defendant, for its part, seeks
judgment on the adequacy of its search, its withholdings, and
its segregability determination.
court agrees with Plaintiff that the FBI has neither
adequately described its search nor properly justified its
withholding of information under FOIA Exemption 7(E). The
court will not, however, order disclosure of the withheld
information at this time, but instead will give the FBI an
opportunity to supplement the record. The court also will
defer evaluating the FBI's segregability determination
until after it renews its Motion for Summary Judgment.
Accordingly, for the reasons that follow, the court grants in
part and denies in part the parties' cross motions for
4, 2014, Plaintiff Electronic Privacy Information Center
(“EPIC”) submitted a FOIA request to Defendant
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”)
seeking all unpublished FBI Privacy Impact Assessments
(“PIAs”) and Privacy Threshold Analyses
(“PTAs”). Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No.
26 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.], Def.'s Stmt. of Mat.
Facts, ECF No. 26-1 [hereinafter Def.'s Stmt.], ¶ 1;
Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 27 [hereinafter
Pl.'s Mot.], Pl.'s Stmt. of Mat. Facts and Resp. to
Def.'s Stmt., ECF No. 27-2 [hereinafter Pl.'s Stmt.],
speaking, PIAs and PTAs concern the FBI's methods for
collecting and storing personal information. A PIA is
“an analysis of how information in identifiable form is
collected, stored, protected, shared, and managed” in
federal agency information technology (“IT”)
systems. More specifically, a PIA analyzes an agency's IT
systems in order to: “(1) ensure that handling conforms
to applicable legal, regulatory, and policy requirements
regarding privacy; (2) determine the risks and effects of
collecting, maintaining, and disseminating information; and
(3) examine and evaluate protections and alternative
processes for handling information to mitigate potential
privacy risks.” Def.'s Mot., Ex. 1, ECF. No. 26-2
[hereinafter Hardy Decl.], ¶ 6. A PTA is a more limited
report that “contains basic questions about the nature
of the system [in question] in addition to a basic system
description.” Id. ¶ 7. The purpose of a
PTA is “to assess and document whether a PIA is
required.” Id. ¶ 7.
Plaintiffs FOIA request sought:
• All Privacy Impact Assessments [“PIAs”]
the FBI has conducted that are not publicly available at
• All Privacy Threshold Analysis [“PTAs”]
documents and Initial Privacy Assessments the FBI has
conducted since 2007 to present.
Stmt. ¶ 2.
17, 2014, the FBI acknowledged receipt of Plaintiff s FOIA
request and informed Plaintiff that it would search for
responsive records in its Central Records System
(“CRS”), as is standard agency protocol.
Id. ¶¶ 4, 6; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 2.
Upon further review of Plaintiff s request, however, the FBI
determined that it needed to conduct additional searches
outside the CRS in order to locate all potentially responsive
documents. Def's Stmt. ¶¶ 9-16. The FBI
designed a “targeted search” to locate those
records and, on June 27, 2014, directed the Privacy and Civil
Liberties Unit (“PCLU”) of the FBI's Office