Judge Rules Terrorist Records FOIA Exempt

     (CN) – The FBI rightfully withheld documents about two terror suspects because they were exempt from disclosure, a federal judge ruled Friday.
     Kenneth Dillon filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI in 2011, seeking records about the August 2011 detention and arrest of terrorism conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Dillon later narrowed his request for records about Moussaoui referencing cropdusting or biological or chemical terrorism.
     He also sought records about the detention of al-Qaida operative Abderraouf Jdey, the ruling states.
     The FBI initially denied the request, except for public records, based on FOIA privacy exemptions. Dillon appealed and the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy, or OIP, instructed the FBI to search for responsive records.
     The bureau then released to Dillon 91 non-exempt pages about Moussaoui but decided that Jdey’s records were exempt from disclosure because they were part of ongoing law enforcement proceedings, according to Friday’s ruling.
     Dillon filed a second request in March 2012 for the FBI’s entire file on Jdey, which was denied based on the same privacy exemptions. The requester appealed but OIP affirmed the FBI’s denial. Dillon sued in 2013.
     U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton decided in the FBI’s favor on Friday, ruling that it conducted an adequate search and properly applied FOIA exemptions for records that were withheld.
     “The court must conclude that the FBI has submitted affidavits sufficient to establish the adequacy of its searches based upon the ‘circumstances of the case,’ and the plaintiff has failed to establish ‘substantial doubt’ as to the sufficiency of the search,” Walton wrote, citing Truitt vs. Department of State, which found that a federal department cannot refuse to search a file that was not reasonably described in the FOIA request.
     The FBI properly released to Dillon “public source material that did not pose an investigative harm,” according to the ruling. But the judge also found that the FBI properly withheld records based on exemptions for classified information and law enforcement documents, including the protection of an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and investigative techniques.
     “The court concludes that the defendant submitted sufficient factual detail to find that it conducted reasonable and adequate searches of its records for documents responsive to the plaintiff’s FOIA requests, released to the plaintiff all documents not otherwise subject to an applicable disclosure exemption, and released all reasonably segregable information not otherwise exempt from disclosure,” Walton wrote. “Accordingly, the court must grant defendant’s motion for summary judgment.”
     Courthouse News has not yet received a comment from Dillon’s attorney, Kel McClanahan of National Security Counselors.
     Moussaoui asked a federal judge in December to transfer him to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba military prison, claiming he was assaulted by a gang member at the Florence, Colo. federal prison last November. The so-called “20th hijacker” pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiring with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attackers.
     His request for transfer to Guantanamo Bay was dismissed in January for lack of prosecution.

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