U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly found Monday that the "FBI failed to demonstrate that it conducted an adequate search for potentially responsive documents, and also failed to justify why certain information was redacted pursuant to Exemptions 6, 7(C) and 7(E).
Courthouse News reports:
…Lawrence Rosenberg asked the FBI to release documents related to a[n immigration] raid [that took place at Agriprocessors glatt kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa in May 2008] under the Freedom of Information Act, but he never responded to the agency's "commitment to pay" request, which included a bill for production fees due in 30 days.
The FBI did not produce the documents as a result, prompting Rosenberg to sue in Washington, D.C.
By Sept. 7, the FBI had handed over 1,233 pages, including 257 pages of duplicates, 39 full pages and 322 partial pages.
The agency cited FOIA exemptions to entirely exclude 150 pages and withheld another 450 pages as court materials sealed by the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Iowa.
After considering the documents in camera, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly found Monday that the "FBI failed to demonstrate that it conducted an adequate search for potentially responsive documents, and also failed to justify why certain information was redacted pursuant to Exemptions 6, 7(C) and 7(E)."
With regard to the first two exemptions, the FBI must "justify why information redacted on 27 specific pages would reveal the identities of law enforcement personnel, witnesses or third parties, and the court shall reserve judgment as to the FBI's use of exemptions 6 and 7(c) in combination with exemption 7(d) pending further explanation from the FBI regarding its claim that interviewees were implicitly guaranteed that their identities would remain confidential as required to invoke exemption 7(d)," according to the ruling. "Otherwise, the FBI met its burden to show that it properly invoked exemptions 6 and 7(c)."
As for the FBI's use of the 7(E) exemption, Kollar-Kotelly said the agency must supplement its motion.
"It is unclear from the court's review how the information on these three pages reflects internal FBI methodology, or how the disclosure of this information would enable perpetrators to alter their behavior and thwart detection," she wrote.
The agency is not liable, however, "for failing to produce responsive documents to the plaintiff 'promptly,' and properly invoked Exemption 3," the 27-page opinion states.
"The plaintiff offers no authority for the proposition that the FBI's decision to produce documents in response to this litigation triggered any statutory duty to produce documents within a particular time frame," Kollar-Kotelly wrote. "Therefore the plaintiff is not entitled to summary on its claim that the FBI failed to make the responsive records available."