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No Right to Records on 1973 Navy Jet Crash

MIAMI (CN) - A federal judge tossed a freelance journalist's FOIA claim against the Navy for failing to produce records on a Navy jet that crashed into an Alameda, Calif., apartment building in 1973.

Theodore Karantsalis claimed in Miami Federal Court that that the Navy's initial records search was inadequate and that it improperly withheld information from a mishap report that it did produce.

Karantsalis sought "a copy of the investigative report, including probable and factual findings" in 2010.

The Office of the Judge Advocate General responded that the records, nearly 40 years old, were "missing and presumed lost."

A second FOIA request yielded the same response.

After Karantsalis unsuccessfully appealed, the Naval Safety Center produced a redacted aviation mishap report from the crash.

Karantsalis' appeal of the withholding of information from the report also was denied.

U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King granted the Navy's request for summary judgment, concluding that the Navy made a reasonable effort to search for the records.

Although Karantsalis asked for a copy of the investigative report, "defendant attempted to locate both the Manual of the Judge Advocate General investigative report and the aviation mishap report," King wrote. And the Navy did locate one of the two documents.

King concluded that redacted statements from witnesses and medical officers in the mishap report are protected under Machin v. Zuckert, which grants privilege to "information from private parties ... even once in the hands of the government," and to "conclusions that might be based in any fashion on such privileged information."

King said that contact information of people mentioned in the 1973 mishap report is protected under the deliberative process privilege, which protects against "privacy intrusions when the public benefit does not outweigh the cost to the individual."

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