Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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.


...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

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