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Case TitleELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER v. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2014cv01311
Date Filed2014-08-01
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge Amit P. Mehta
PlaintiffELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER
Case DescriptionEPIC submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for all Privacy Impact Assessments conducted by the agency but not made public and all Privacy Threshold Analysis documents and Initial Privacy Assessments conducted by the agency since 2007. EPIC requested inclusion in the media fee category and a fee waiver. After hearing nothing from the agency, EPIC filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit

DefendantFEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Opinion/Order [32]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Amit Mehta has ruled that the FBI has not has not shown that it conducted an adequate search for Privacy Impact Assessments and Privacy Threshold Analyses and has not justified redactions made under Exemption 7(E) (investigative methods and techniques). EPIC requested the PIAs and PTAs, which are required by the E-Government Act, from the FBI. The request was forwarded to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Unit. The agency located 2,490 pages and withheld in full or in part 215 pages. EPIC challenged the agency's search, arguing that its affidavit failed to provide the search terms used, failed to show why the agency decided to search only the PCLU and did not explain whether all potentially responsive files were searched. Mehta agreed, noting that "the declaration does not, for instance, say whether PCLU staff searched paper files, electronic files, or both. If it searched electronic files, then the declaration does not say what search terms were used. Nor does it identify the persons within PCLU who most likely possessed responsive materials. A declaration lacking such basic facts does not satisfy an agency's burden to demonstrate the adequacy of its search." Turning to Exemption 7(E), Mehta noted that under the E-Government Act the PIAs and PTAs were required to be made public, if practicable. Mehta found that the agency's affidavit was "insufficient to establish that the withheld materials were compiled for law enforcement purposes within the meaning of FOIA. It devotes most its attention to establish a single, generic point: The FBI uses various technologies to carry out its law enforcement duties. No one disputes that." He observed that the agency's affidavit "does not adequately explain how or why the PTAs and PIAs are created or used to enforce the law. It tells the court nothing about the connection between the contents of the assessments and the agency's law enforcement function. Rather, the declaration simply asserts, without any elaboration, that there is some unspecified 'nexus' between the privacy assessments and the agency's law enforcement responsibilities. Such a conclusory assertion does not enable the court to conduct a de novo review of the FBI's withholdings under Exemption 7(E)." He added, however, that "none of this should be taken to mean that the privacy assessments required by the E-Government Act do not, in theory, have a rational nexus to the act of enforcing the law. Law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, cannot effectively carry out their law enforcement function unless their technology systems are capable of securing sensitive personal information that comes into the agency's possession." He pointed out that "technology systems that are vulnerable to being compromised, whether by internal or external means, do not merely put investigations at risk, but also imperil the privacy interests of those individuals whose personal information happens to comes into possession of a law enforcement agency." Faulting the technical jargon used by the agency to explain its Exemption 7(E) claim, Mehta observed that "the court does not mean to diminish the difficulties attendant to describing technology systems and concepts to a non-technical audience. Nevertheless, those descriptions cannot be written as if the court possesses an advanced degree in computer science. Unfortunately, it does not. Thus, when the FBI revises its declaration, the court urges the agency to use less jargon and opt instead for plain language that will more easily enable the court to determine if the requirements of Exemption 7(E) are met."
Issues: Adequacy - Search, Exemption 7(E) - Investigative methods or techniques
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2014-08-011COMPLAINT against FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-3797920) filed by ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons FBI, # 3 Summons AG, # 4 Summons US Attny)(McCall, Ginger) (Entered: 08/01/2014)
2014-08-012LCvR 7.1 CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE of Corporate Affiliations and Financial Interests by ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER (McCall, Ginger) (Entered: 08/01/2014)
2014-08-01Case Assigned to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. (kb) (Entered: 08/04/2014)
2014-08-043SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General. (Attachments: # 1 Consent Form, # 2 Notice of Consent)(kb) (Entered: 08/04/2014)
2014-08-054GENERAL ORDER AND GUIDELINES FOR CIVIL CASES BEFORE JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON. The Court will hold the parties and counsel responsible for following these directives; failure to conform to this Order may, when appropriate, result in the imposition of sanctions. Signed by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on 08/05/2014. (lckbj1) (Entered: 08/05/2014)
2014-08-205RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 8/11/2014. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 9/10/2014. (Attachments: # 1 Affidavit U.S. Attorney General, # 2 Affidavit Attorney General for the District of Columbia, # 3 Affidavit Federal Bureau of Investigation, # 4 Exhibit Receipt for Certified Mail - U.S. Attorney General, # 5 Exhibit Receipt for Certified Mail - Attorney General for the District of Columbia, # 6 Exhibit Receipt for Certified Mail - Federal Bureau of Investigation)(McCall, Ginger) (Entered: 08/20/2014)
2014-09-086First MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer re 1 Complaint, by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 09/08/2014)
2014-09-09MINUTE ORDER granting, for good cause shown, 6 Motion for Extension of Time to Answer. Defendant shall answer or otherwise respond to the complaint by 10/10/2014. Signed by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on 09/09/2014. (lckbj1) (Entered: 09/09/2014)
2014-10-077NOTICE of Appearance by Marc Rotenberg on behalf of ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER (Rotenberg, Marc) (Entered: 10/07/2014)
2014-10-088Consent MOTION to Stay These Proceedings by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 10/08/2014)
2014-10-089ORDER granting Defendant's 8 Consent Motion to Stay this matter until 8/31/2015, while Defendant produces documents on a rolling basis starting 12/14/2014 and ending 8/30/2015, and files monthly status reports with this Court. Following production, by 9/15/2015, the parties shall file a joint status report advising the Court whether any further proceedings will be necessary. See attached Order for details. Signed by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on 10/08/2014. (lckbj2) (Entered: 10/08/2014)
2014-10-09Set/Reset Deadlines: The Defendant shall produce documetns on a rolling basis starting 12/14/2014 and ending 8/30/2015. By 9/15/2015, the parties shall file a joint status report advising the Court whether any further proceedings will be necessary. (ad) (Entered: 10/09/2014)
2014-12-1510STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 12/15/2014)
2014-12-24Case randomly reassigned to Judge Amit P. Mehta. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson no longer assigned to the case. (gt, ) (Entered: 12/24/2014)
2015-01-1511STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 01/15/2015)
2015-02-1212STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 02/12/2015)
2015-03-1213STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 03/12/2015)
2015-04-1314STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 04/13/2015)
2015-05-1315STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 05/13/2015)
2015-05-1916NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF APPEARANCE as to ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER. Attorney Ginger P. McCall terminated. (McCall, Ginger) (Entered: 05/19/2015)
2015-06-1517STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 06/15/2015)
2015-06-2318NOTICE of Appearance by Jeramie D. Scott on behalf of ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER (Scott, Jeramie) (Entered: 06/23/2015)
2015-08-13MINUTE ORDER: The parties are reminded that, pursuant to the court's October 10, 2014, Order, Defendant shall file monthly Status Reports with the court regarding the status of its processing of Plaintiffs FOIA request. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 08/13/2015. (lcapm2) (Entered: 08/13/2015)
2015-08-13ENTERED IN ERROR..........Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: The Secretary's Response to Cross Motion due by 8/26/2015. Reply to Cross Motion due by 10/29/2015. The Secretary's Summary Judgment motion due by 8/26/2015. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 10/29/2015. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 11/13/2015. Joint Appendix due by 11/20/2015. (cdw) Modified on 8/13/2015 (zcdw). (Entered: 08/13/2015)
2015-08-1719STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 08/17/2015)
2015-08-24MINUTE ORDER: The parties are directed to file a Joint Status Report on or before September 15, 2015, which shall indicate whether further proceedings will be necessary in this case. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 08/24/2015. (lcapm1) (Entered: 08/24/2015)
2015-08-24Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Joint Status Report due by 9/15/2015. (cdw) (Entered: 08/25/2015)
2015-09-1520Joint STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 09/15/2015)
2015-09-16MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of the parties' 20 September 15, 2015, Joint Status Report, the parties shall meet and confer and file another Joint Status Report on or before November 17, 2015, which shall indicate what further proceedings, if any, will be necessary in this case. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 09/16/2015. (lcapm2) (Entered: 09/16/2015)
2015-09-16Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Joint Status Report due by 11/17/2015. (cdw) (Entered: 09/17/2015)
2015-09-2121NOTICE of Appearance by Alan Jay Butler on behalf of ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER (Butler, Alan) (Entered: 09/21/2015)
2015-11-1722Joint STATUS REPORT by ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER. (Scott, Jeramie) (Entered: 11/17/2015)
2015-11-18MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of the parties' 22 November 17, 2015, Joint Status Report, the court orders the parties to meet and confer and file another Joint Status Report on or before February 16, 2016, which shall indicate what further proceedings, if any, will be necessary in this case. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 11/18/2015. (lcapm2) (Entered: 11/18/2015)
2015-11-18Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Joint Status Report due by 2/16/2016. (cdw) (Entered: 11/20/2015)
2016-02-1623Joint STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 02/16/2016)
2016-02-18MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of the parties' 23 February 16, 2016, Joint Status Report, the court sets the following schedule for further proceedings: Defendant shall file its Answer on or before March 10, 2016; Defendant shall file its Motion for Summary Judgment on or before April 1, 2016; Plaintiff shall file its consolidated Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment on or before May 2, 2016; Defendant shall file its consolidated Opposition and Reply on or before June 1, 2016; and Plaintiff shall file its Reply on or before June 29, 2016. Signed by Amit P. Mehta on 02/18/2016. (lcapm2) (Entered: 02/18/2016)
2016-02-19Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer due by 3/10/2016. Motion for summary judgment due 4/1/2016; Response and cross motion due 5/2/2016; Cross motion response and reply in support of motion for summary judgment 6/1/2016; Reply in support of cross motion due 6/29/2016.(zmm) (Entered: 02/19/2016)
2016-03-1024ANSWER to Complaint by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION.(Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 03/10/2016)
2016-03-3125Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Motion for Summary Judgment and for Extension of the Briefing Schedule by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 03/31/2016)
2016-04-01MINUTE ORDER granting 25 Consent Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for Summary Judgment. It is further ordered that Defendant shall file its Motion for Summary Judgment on or before April 22, 2016; Plaintiff shall file its Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment on or before June 3, 2016; Defendant shall file its Opposition and Reply on or before July 1, 2016; and Plaintiff shall file its Reply on or before July 29, 2016. Signed by Amit P. Mehta on 04/01/2016. (lcapm1) (Entered: 04/01/2016)
2016-04-01Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Defendant's Summary Judgment motion due by 4/22/2016. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 6/3/2016. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 7/1/2016. Plaintiff's Cross Motion due by 6/3/2016. Response to Cross Motion due by 7/1/2016. Reply to Cross Motion due by 7/29/2016. (cdw) (Entered: 04/04/2016)
2016-04-2226MOTION for Summary Judgment by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts, # 2 Declaration of David M. Hardy, Section Chief, Record/Information Dissemination Section, # 3 Exhibit A-O to Hardy Declaration, # 4 Exhibit P to Hardy Declaration, # 5 Exhibit Q to Hardy Declaration, # 6 Text of Proposed Order)(Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 04/22/2016)
2016-06-0327Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment by ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Statement of Facts, # 3 Exhibit 1, # 4 Text of Proposed Order)(Scott, Jeramie) (Entered: 06/03/2016)
2016-06-0328Memorandum in opposition to re 26 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER. (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Statement of Facts, # 3 Exhibit 1, # 4 Text of Proposed Order)(Scott, Jeramie) (Entered: 06/03/2016)
2016-06-3029Memorandum in opposition to re 27 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts, # 2 Text of Proposed Order)(Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 06/30/2016)
2016-06-3030REPLY to opposition to motion re 26 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 06/30/2016)
2016-07-2931REPLY to opposition to motion re 27 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER. (Scott, Jeramie) (Entered: 07/29/2016)
2017-02-2132MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting in part and denying in part 26 Defendant's Motions for Summary Judgment and denying in part 27 Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. See the attached Memorandum Opinion and Order for additional details. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 02/21/2017. (lcapm2) (Entered: 02/21/2017)
2017-02-21Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Proposed Briefing Schedule due by 3/3/2017 (cdw) (Entered: 02/22/2017)
2017-03-0333Joint STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Kelly, Wynne) (Entered: 03/03/2017)
2017-03-03MINUTE ORDER: In light of 33 the parties' Joint Status Report, the schedule for further proceedings in this matter shall be as follows: Defendant shall provide its supplemental declaration to Plaintiff by May 3, 2017, and the parties shall provide to the court a proposed briefing schedule by May 17, 2017, if they are unable to resolve the remaining issues in this litigation. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 03/03/2017. (lcapm2) (Entered: 03/03/2017)
2017-03-06Set/Reset Deadlines: Proposed Briefing Schedule due by 5/17/2017 (mac) (Entered: 03/06/2017)
2017-05-1734NOTICE OF SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL by Brian J. Field on behalf of All Defendants Substituting for attorney Wynne P. Kelly (Field, Brian) (Entered: 05/17/2017)
2017-05-1735Joint MOTION for Briefing Schedule by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (Field, Brian) (Entered: 05/17/2017)
2017-05-17MINUTE ORDER granting the parties' 35 Joint Motion for Briefing Schedule and setting the following schedule for further proceedings in this matter: Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is due on or before June 30, 2017; Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is due on or before July 31, 2017; Defendant's Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is due on or before August 31, 2017, and Plaintiff's Reply in Support of Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is due on or before September 22, 2017. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 05/17/2017. (lcapm1) Modified on 5/18/2017 (zcdw). (Entered: 05/17/2017)
2017-05-17Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Defendant's Summary Judgment motion due by 6/30/2017. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 7/31/2017. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 8/31/2017. Plaintiff's Cross Motion due by 7/31/2017. Response to Cross Motion due by 8/31/2017. Reply to Cross Motion due by 9/22/2017. (zcdw) (Entered: 05/18/2017)
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