Secret Rules for Spying on Journalists Will Stay Secret
A California court has denied Freedom of the Press Foundation's motion to get more information from the FBI about its surveillance of journalists.
Plaintiff submitted a FOIA request on March 10, 2015, seeking
records related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (“FBI”) procedures for issuing national
security letters (“NSLs”) to obtain information regarding any member of the media from January
2009 to the present. [...] The FBI is empowered to issue NSLs to obtain “subscriber
information and toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional
records” from third-party wire or electronic communication providers if such information is
“relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine
intelligence activities.” [...] Plaintiff, however, suspects government
misuse of this investigative tool.
In response to Plaintiff’s FOIA request, the FBI conducted a search of its records. [...] It identified 302 pages of records and released 156,
withholding the rest pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 1, 3, 5, 7(C), and 7(E).
Plaintiff [...] seeks judgment that (1) Defendant has failed to
conduct an adequate search for responsive documents; (2) Defendant’s Vaughn Index fails to meet
Defendant’s burden under FOIA; (3) Defendant has failed to show that it properly withheld
documents pursuant to FOIA exemptions 1, 3, 5, and 7E; and (4) Defendant has failed to disclose
all reasonably segregable information that is not covered by a FOIA exemption.
“In evaluating the sufficiency of an agency’s search, the issue to be resolved is not whether
there might exist any other documents possibly responsive to the request, but rather whether the
search for those documents was adequate.” Lahr, 569 F.3d at 987 (quotation omitted).
Plaintiff asserts that [...] “conspicuous omissions” establish that the FBI did
not perform a search reasonably calculated to uncover all responsive documents. Id. at 14. The
Court is not persuaded
While the FBI’s search may not have been perfect, Plaintiff was “entitled to a
reasonable search for records, not a perfect one.” Hamdan, 797 F.3d at 772.
The Court finds the Hardy Declarations establish that the FBI conducted an adequate
search that was reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.