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Case TitleElectronic Frontier Foundation v. Department of Homeland Security
DistrictNorthern District of California
CityOakland
Case Number4:2012cv05580
Date Filed2012-10-30
Date Closed2014-06-13
JudgeHon. Phyllis J. Hamilton
PlaintiffElectronic Frontier Foundation
DefendantDepartment of Homeland Security
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Opinion/Order [47]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in California has ruled that Customs and Border Protection properly invoked Exemption 7(E) (investigative methods and techniques) to withhold information about the location and operations of drones. EFF requested information about the agency's use of drones and after filing suit focused specifically on the agency's Exemption 7(E) claims. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton noted initially that the agency and EFF had different interpretations of the scope of the two prongs of Exemption 7(E), which in its first clause protects investigative methods and techniques, and in its second clause, protects guidelines for investigations or prosecutions to the extent such disclosure would risk circumvention of law. While EFF argued that both the first and second prongs were limited by the term "risk of circumvention of the law," the agency asserted that the risk of circumvention phrase applied only to guidelines. Hamilton agreed with the agency, but observed that the agency had met its burden under Exemption 7(E) even it were required to show that disclosure of the techniques it withheld would risk circumvention of law. EFF argued that because counties in Arizona were quite large, disclosing the names of counties would not reveal protected techniques. But Hamilton indicated that "EFF has focused on a narrow set of examples where risk of circumvention of the law is at its relative lowest, but looking at the entirety of EFF's request for location-based information, the court finds that disclosing the location of drone operations would reveal where done efforts are focused, and therefore would disclose law enforcement techniques and procedures." EFF suggested that because drones were often visible from the ground their locations were generally available to the public, but Hamilton noted that "this argument is far too attenuated to show that the locations of drone operations are 'generally known.' EFF establishes only that some drones may be visible in some instances´┐Ż"which does not come close to establishing the locations of all CBP drone operations. . .are 'generally known.'" She rejected EFF's claims that various aspects of drone operations were public knowledge. Instead, she pointed out that "while some capabilities of drones may be known, that does not make further detailed information about drones routine and generally known." EFF argued that disclosure of the fact that CBP used drones would not seriously impact its ability to track criminal activity. Hamilton, however, pointed out that "even if other measures (aside from drones) are used, disclosure of the location of drone operations may still increase the risk of circumvention of the law. While the use of other measures may indeed dampen the increase in risk, it does not eliminate the risk." Hamilton explained that disclosure of other techniques would risk exposing the agency's vulnerabilities. She observed that "by revealing the criteria used by CBP to assess threats, and the capabilities and vulnerabilities of CBP drones, the information would allow persons to avoid detection and exploit vulnerabilities."
Issues: Exemption 7(E) - Unknown to public, Exemption 7(E) - Investigative methods or techniques
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2012-10-301COMPLAINT against Department of Homeland Security ( Filing fee $ 350, receipt number 34611080153.). Filed byElectronic Frontier Foundation. (farS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 10/30/2012) (Additional attachment(s) added on 12/3/2012: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet) (farS, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 11/01/2012)
2012-10-302ADR SCHEDULING ORDER: Case Management Statement due by 1/31/2013. Case Management Conference set for 2/7/2013 10:30 AM in Courtroom C, 15th Floor, San Francisco. (Attachments: # 1 Standing Order)(farS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 10/30/2012) (Entered: 11/01/2012)
2012-10-303Summons Issued as to Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (farS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 10/30/2012) (farS, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 11/01/2012)
2012-11-054*** FILED IN ERROR. REFER TO DOCUMENT 5 . *** SUMMONS Returned Executed (FOIA) by Electronic Frontier Foundation. Department of Homeland Security served on 10/31/2012, answer due 11/30/2012. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service Dept. of Homeland Security, # 2 Certificate/Proof of Service Dept. of Justice)(Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 11/5/2012) Modified on 11/5/2012 (fff, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 11/05/2012)
2012-11-055SUMMONS Returned Executed (FOIA) by Electronic Frontier Foundation. CORRECTION OF DOCKET # 4 (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service Dept. of Homeland Security, # 2 Certificate/Proof of Service Dept. of Justice)(Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 11/5/2012) (Entered: 11/05/2012)
2012-11-306NOTICE of Appearance Department of Homeland Security (Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 11/30/2012) (Entered: 11/30/2012)
2012-11-307ANSWER to Complaint byDepartment of Homeland Security. (Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 11/30/2012) (Entered: 11/30/2012)
2012-11-308CONSENT/DECLINATION to Proceed Before a US Magistrate Judge by Department of Homeland Security.. (Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 11/30/2012) (Entered: 11/30/2012)
2012-12-039CLERK'S NOTICE of Impending Reassignment to U.S. District Judge. (ls, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/3/2012) (Entered: 12/03/2012)
2012-12-0410ORDER, Case reassigned to Hon. Phyllis J. Hamilton. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler no longer assigned to the case.. Signed by Executive Committee on 12/4/12. (ha, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/4/2012) (Entered: 12/04/2012)
2012-12-1311ORDER SETTING CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE. Joint Case Management Statement due by 2/28/2013. Initial Case Management Conference set for 3/7/2013 02:00 PM. Signed by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton on 12/13/12. (nah, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/13/2012) (Entered: 12/13/2012)
2013-01-2812STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER to Continue Case Management Conference filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 1/28/2013) (Entered: 01/28/2013)
2013-01-2913STIPULATION AND ORDER TO CONTINUE CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE by Hon. Phyllis J. Hamilton granting 12 Stipulation.(nah, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/29/2013) (Entered: 01/29/2013)
2013-01-2914AMENDED STIPULATION AND ORDER TO CONTINUE CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE re 12 STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER to Continue Case Management Conference filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation. Joint Case Management Statement due by 3/14/2013. Initial Case Management Conference set for 3/21/2013 02:00 PM. Signed by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton on 1/29/13. (nah, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/29/2013) (Entered: 01/29/2013)
2013-02-2815ADR Certification (ADR L.R. 3-5 b) of discussion of ADR options, filed by Department of Homeland Security (Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 2/28/2013) Modified on 3/1/2013 (jlm, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 02/28/2013)
2013-02-2816ADR Certification (ADR L.R. 3-5 b) of discussion of ADR options, filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 2/28/2013) Modified on 3/1/2013 (jlm, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 02/28/2013)
2013-02-2817NOTICE of need for ADR Phone Conference (ADR L.R. 3-5 d), filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 2/28/2013) Modified on 3/1/2013 (jlm, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 02/28/2013)
2013-02-2818Corrected NOTICE of need for ADR Phone Conference (ADR L.R. 3-5 d), filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 2/28/2013) Modified on 3/1/2013 (jlm, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 02/28/2013)
2013-03-0119ADR Clerks Notice Setting ADR Phone Conference on 3/14/13 at 2:30 p.m. PST. Please note that you must be logged into an ECF account of counsel of record in order to view this document. (tjs, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/1/2013) (Entered: 03/01/2013)
2013-03-05ADR Remark: The ADR Phone Conference has been rescheduled to 3/18/13 at 2:00 p.m. Dial-in information remains the same. (tjs, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/5/2013) (Entered: 03/05/2013)
2013-03-1320Certificate of Interested Entities by Electronic Frontier Foundation identifying Corporate Parent Electronic Frontier Foundation for Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 3/13/2013) (Entered: 03/13/2013)
2013-03-1421JOINT CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation, Department of Homeland Security. (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 3/14/2013) Modified on 3/15/2013 (vlk, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 03/14/2013)
2013-03-1422STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER to Appear Telephonically at Case Management Conference filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 3/14/2013) (Entered: 03/14/2013)
2013-03-1523ORDER SETTING TELEPHONIC CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton granting 22 Stipulation (nah, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/15/2013) (Entered: 03/15/2013)
2013-03-15Set/Reset Hearing re 23 Order on Stipulation. Initial Case Management Conference set for 3/21/2013 01:30 PM. (nah, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/15/2013) (Entered: 03/15/2013)
2013-03-2124Minute Entry: Initial Case Management Conference held on 3/21/2013 before Phyllis J. Hamilton (Date Filed: 3/21/2013). Joint Case Management Statement due by 6/13/2013. Initial Case Management Conference set for 6/20/2013 01:30 PM. (Court Reporter Not Reported.) (nah, COURT STAFF) (Date Filed: 3/21/2013) (Entered: 03/22/2013)
2013-04-0625NOTICE of Change of Address by Jennifer Ann Lynch (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 4/6/2013) (Entered: 04/06/2013)
2013-06-2026Minute Entry: Further Case Management Conference held on 6/20/2013 before Phyllis J. Hamilton (Date Filed: 6/20/2013). Cross Motions for Summary Judgment to be heard on 12/11/2013. (Court Reporter Not Reported.) (nah, COURT STAFF) (Date Filed: 6/20/2013) (Entered: 06/21/2013)
2013-09-2527MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Department of Homeland Security. Motion Hearing set for 12/11/2013 09:00 AM in Courtroom 3, 3rd Floor, Oakland before Hon. Phyllis J. Hamilton. Responses due by 10/23/2013. Replies due by 11/7/2013. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration Declaration of Jennie L. Kneedler, # 2 Declaration Declaration of Patrick Howard, # 3 Declaration Declaration of Lothar Eckardt Part 1, # 4 Declaration Eckardt Declaration Part 2, # 5 Declaration Eckardt Declaration Part 3, # 6 Proposed Order)(Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 9/25/2013) (Entered: 09/25/2013)
2013-10-2328Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment and Opposition to 27 Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation. Motion Hearing set for 12/11/2013 09:00 AM in Courtroom 3, 3rd Floor, Oakland before Hon. Phyllis J. Hamilton. Responses due by 11/6/2013. Replies due by 11/20/2013. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 10/23/2013) (Entered: 10/23/2013)
2013-11-0629REPLY (re 27 MOTION for Summary Judgment ) and Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment re 28 filed byDepartment of Homeland Security. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration Supplemental Declaration of Lothar Eckardt)(Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 11/6/2013) (Entered: 11/06/2013)
2013-11-1930REPLY (re 28 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ) filed byElectronic Frontier Foundation. (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 11/19/2013) (Entered: 11/19/2013)
2013-11-1931Declaration of Jennifer Lynch in Support of 30 Reply to Opposition/Response re Cross Motion for Summary Judgment filed byElectronic Frontier Foundation. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1, # 2 Exhibit 2, # 3 Exhibit 3, # 4 Exhibit 4)(Related document(s) 30 ) (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 11/19/2013) (Entered: 11/19/2013)
2013-12-0332STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER to Continue Hearing Date on Cross Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Department of Homeland Security. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration)(Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 12/3/2013) (Entered: 12/03/2013)
2013-12-0533STIPULATION AND ORDER TO CONTINUE HEARING DATE ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT by Hon. Phyllis J. Hamilton granting 32 Stipulation.(nahS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/5/2013) (Entered: 12/05/2013)
2013-12-05Set/Reset Deadlines as to 27 MOTION for Summary Judgment , 28 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment . Motion Hearing set for 1/15/2014 09:00 AM before Hon. Phyllis J. Hamilton. (nahS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/5/2013) (Entered: 12/05/2013)
2014-01-1534Minute Entry: Motion Hearing held on 1/15/2014 before Phyllis J. Hamilton (Date Filed: 1/15/2014) re 27 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Department of Homeland Security, 28 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Court Reporter Raynee Mercado.) (nah, COURT STAFF) (Date Filed: 1/15/2014) (Entered: 01/15/2014)
2014-01-2135NOTICE by Department of Homeland Security Notice of In Camera Submission (Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 1/21/2014) (Entered: 01/21/2014)
2014-03-3136ORDER by Judge Hamilton granting in part and denying in part 27 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 28 Motion for Summary Judgment (pjhlc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/31/2014) (Entered: 03/31/2014)
2014-04-2837JOINT CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT filed by Department of Homeland Security, Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 4/28/2014) Modified on 4/29/2014 (vlk, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 04/28/2014)
2014-04-2938ORDER re 37 Joint Case Management Statement filed by Department of Homeland Security, Electronic Frontier Foundation. Signed by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton on 4/29/14. (nah, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/29/2014) (Entered: 04/29/2014)
2014-05-2839STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER Setting Briefing Schedule filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 5/28/2014) (Entered: 05/28/2014)
2014-05-2940ORDER by Judge Hamilton granting 39 Stipulation (pjhlc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/29/2014) (Entered: 05/29/2014)
2014-06-1141STATUS REPORT (Joint) and Proposed Judgment by Department of Homeland Security. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Kneedler, Jennie) (Filed on 6/11/2014) (Entered: 06/11/2014)
2014-06-1142MOTION for Attorney Fees and Costs filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation. Responses due by 6/25/2014. Replies due by 7/2/2014. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Jennifer Lynch, # 2 Declaration of David Sobel, # 3 Proposed Order)(Lynch, Jennifer) (Filed on 6/11/2014) (Entered: 06/11/2014)
2014-06-1343JUDGMENT, ***Civil Case Terminated. Signed by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton on 6/13/14. (nahS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/13/2014) (Entered: 06/13/2014)
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