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McCash v. Central Intelligence Agency

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

March 20, 2017

TANIA MCCASH, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO. 46

          EDWARD J. DAVILA United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Tania McCash seeks disclosure of documents that the FBI withheld in response to her request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552. The FBI moves for summary judgment on the basis that these documents are exempt from disclosure because they would reveal secret law enforcement techniques. The FBI's motion will be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         McCash sent FOIA requests to the CIA, NSA, and FBI seeking disclosure of records about herself. Compl. ¶ 7, Dkt. No. 1. The CIA responded that it had no relevant unclassified records other than its past communications with her. Decl. of Martha M. Lutz ¶ 12, Dkt. No. 23. As for classified records, it responded that it could neither confirm nor deny their existence (known as a “Glomar response”). Id. ¶ 28. The NSA gave a similar reply, but it noted that its search did not include earlier correspondence from McCash. Supp. Decl. of Renee Kuntz ¶¶ 1-4, Dkt. No. 32. The FBI found 44 pages of “complaints made by Plaintiff on various subjects.” Decl. of David Hardy ¶ 5-15, Dkt. No. 24. Since the FBI determined that some of those pages contained information that was exempt from disclosure, it withheld two pages, released 32 pages with redactions, and released ten pages in full. Id. ¶¶ 4, 15.

         McCash unsuccessfully appealed the agencies' responses. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 20, 27. She then brought this action, alleging that each agency “failed to conduct an adequate search for responsive records and has wrongfully withheld” the documents she seeks. Id. ¶¶ 15, 21, 29.

         The agencies moved for summary judgment, arguing that their searches were adequate, that their Glomar responses were proper, and that the FBI properly withheld information that fell within certain statutory exemptions. Dkt. No. 22. This Court held that the searches, Glomar responses, and partial withholdings were proper, but that the FBI failed to explain why it withheld two pages in full, or why those pages could not be partially redacted. Id. at 9-24.

         Defendants now move for summary judgment[1] on the basis that the FBI properly withheld those two pages. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (“MSJ”), Dkt. No. 46.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Summary Judgment

         “Summary judgment is proper where no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Samuels v. Holland American Line- USA Inc., 656 F.3d 948, 952 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). The Court “must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Id. “The central issue is ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so onesided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'” Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). Pro se pleadings and motions should be construed liberally. Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000).

         B. Summary Judgment in FOIA Cases

         If an agency withholds information that is responsive to a FOIA request, it must prove that the information falls within a statutory exception to the disclosure requirement. See Dobronski v. FCC, 17 F.3d 275, 277 (9th Cir. 1994). The agency may submit affidavits to satisfy its burden, but “the government ‘may not rely upon conclusory and generalized allegations of exemptions.' ” Kamman v. IRS, 56 F.3d 46, 48 (9th Cir.1995) (quoting Church of Scientology v. U.S. Dep't of the Army, 611 F.2d 738, 742 (9th Cir.1979)). The agency's “affidavits must contain ‘reasonably detailed descriptions of the documents and allege facts sufficient to establish an exemption.' ” Id. (quoting Lewis v. IRS, 823 F.2d 375, 378 (9th Cir. 1987)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         McCash argues that the FBI has not adequately justified its decision to withhold the two pages at issue. Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ...


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