Ctr. for Constitutional Rights v. DOJ, No. 12 Civ. 135, 2013 WL 4864773 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 12, 2013) (Buchwald, J.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013
Re: Request for images of detainee held at United States Naval Station, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba Disposition: Denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment; granting defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment
  • Exemption 1:  The court finds that defendant, "has satisfied its burden of establishing the applicability of FOIA Exemption 1."  The court explains that, "[t]o satisfy this burden, [defendant] asserts that the Withheld Videotapes and Photographs are properly classified as 'military plans, weapons systems, or operations,' 'intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology,' or 'foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States,'" and, "that the release of these materials can reasonably be expected to damage national security."  The court finds, "that [defendant's] submissions provide adequate justification for [defendant's] invocation of FOIA Exemption 1."  The court notes that, "[i]n particular, we find it both logical and plausible that extremists would utilize images . . . (whether in native or manipulated formats) to incite anti-American sentiment, to raise funds, and/or to recruit other loyalists, as has occurred in the past."  "Moreover," the court finds "it entirely plausible that disclosure of the Withheld Videotapes and Photographs could compromise [defendant's] cooperative relationships with other Guantánamo detainees."  The court also notes that defendant's, "prior disclosures are 'of limited legal relevance' in the context of FOIA Exemption 1," and that, "[a]s [plaintiff] concedes, the Withheld Videotapes and Photographs were not previously disclosed."  The court states that, "[f]inally, we note that, contrary to [plaintiff's] speculative suggestion, there is no evidence that any of the Withheld Videotapes or Photographs depict illegal conduct, evidence of mistreatment, or other potential sources of governmental embarrassment."
  • Exemptions 1 and 3, Glomar:  The court finds that defendant's, "Glomar response is proper and sufficient."  The court notes that defendant, "contends that the existence of any responsive records must be withheld under FOIA Exemptions 1 and 3."  The court states that, "[w]ith respect to Exemption 1, [defendant] argues that either confirming or denying the existence of responsive records would necessarily reveal whether [defendant] has ever had any interest in [the detainee] or his affiliates."  The court notes that defendant, "maintains that disclosure of this information could reasonably be expected to damage national security by, inter alia, aiding terrorist organizations and extremist groups in avoiding [defendant] surveillance and exploiting existing intelligence gaps and/or harming the United States' relationship with [the detainee's]  home country."  The court is, "satisfied that the agency has provided sufficient detail to justify its invocation of FOIA Exemption 1."  The court rejects plaintiff's, "sole argument to the contrary," specifically, "that 'official acknowledgements' have already detailed [defendant's] involvement in detaining and interrogating [the detainee]," because, "the referenced statements cannot satisfy the 'strict test' for official disclosure because they were not made by [defendant] itself."
District Court
Exemption 1
Exemption 3
Updated August 6, 2014