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DC Circuit Affirms Order Denying FOIA FBI Disclosure to Kentucky Prisoner

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has affirmed the district court denial of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of prisoner Benny Lee Hodge,
who had sought document disclosure from the FBI of 569 pages of “a complete and thorough search of all filing systems and locations for all records” the FBI had accumulated in its investigation of him.

The FBI released only 361 pages, and exerted exemptions under FOIA Exemptions 3, 7(C), and 7(D) as to the rest. At the district court level and on appeal, Hodge had asserted that the FBI’s search was inadequate, and that it was not entitled to the aforementioned exemptions.

The court ruled that exemption 3 was proper, in that it was related to grand jury proceedings, and exempted under Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Exemption 7(C) was sustained because it was classified as “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes …(which) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Finally, Exemption 7(D) was upheld, based upon the fact that it constituted information obtained during the course of an investigation which “could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source.”

In conclusion, the court held that, “it is unsurprising that certain documents would be heavily redacted given the sensitive nature of the investigative reports at issue and the multiple exemptions that apply. We therefore conclude that the FBI has released all reasonably segregable, non-exempt material to Hodge.” See: Hodge v. FBI, 703 F.3d 575 (D.C. Cir. 2013).

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Related legal case

Hodge v. FBI