Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 76 C 1374 - Julius J. Hoffman, Judge.
Castle, Senior Circuit Judge, Swygert and Sprecher, Circuit Judges.
The issue presented in this appeal is whether the district court was correct in finding that the withheld portions of certain Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) files and a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) document were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552.
On June 9, 1975, plaintiff requested the Director of the FBI to provide him with "all the information available to me concerning my files." After some intervening correspondence, FBI Director Clarence Kelley informed plaintiff on December 12, 1975, that his request had been completed. On February 9, 1975, the FBI released to plaintiff 245 pages of material from six FBI files. Plaintiff was also informed that portions of the released documents had been excised and other documents had been withheld in their entirety pursuant to FOIA exemptions. With respect to a document in the possession of the FBI but which originated with the CIA, the CIA refused to allow disclosure of the document, claiming an exemption under the FOIA.
Plaintiff brought a pro se action under the FOIA on April 12, 1976, seeking access to the documents in the possession of the FBI and CIA which had been withheld. Affidavits were filed detailing the specific exemptions claimed and their relation to the documents in the files. The district court ordered that all the documents (except the classified CIA document and the parts of it contained in the FBI files) be produced in camera for the court's inspection.
The defendants moved on July 15, 1976, for dismissal of the complaint or in the alternative for summary judgment, relying on the filed affidavits. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants, reasoning that the deletions in the FBI files were made properly under the FOIA and that the CIA document was exempt under the FOIA and pursuant to Executive Order 11652. Plaintiff appeals from these determinations and our jurisdiction derives from 28 U.S.C. § 1291.
We address first the district court finding that the withheld portions of the FBI files were exempt from public disclosure. The files have been produced for our in camera inspection and they have been reviewed. The portions asserted to be exempt were marked in red. The files relate to various investigations of the FBI concerning plaintiff's possible criminal liability for, among other things, extortion, assaulting a federal officer and committing a crime on a government reservation. The documents include reports from private citizens, FBI employees, law enforcement personnel, and intra-agency correspondence regarding plaintiff's suspected illegal activity.
The first group of deletions was based on Exemption 2 of the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(2), for material "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency." The Supreme Court has declared that this exemption relates to "routine matters" with "merely internal significance" in which "the public could not reasonably be expected to have an interest." Department of the Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 369-70, 48 L. Ed. 2d 11, 96 S. Ct. 1592 (1976). The exemption is claimed here for administrative markings such as file numbers, initials, signature and mail routing stamps, and references to previous communications utilized to maintain control of an investigation. These are matters in which the public interest is minimal and which fall within the ambit of Exemption 2.
A second group of deletions was made pursuant to Exemption 7, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7). In particular, the FBI claimed that the reports of interviews and the names of interviewees, third parties, FBI personnel and other law enforcement personnel fell within Exemptions 7(C), (D) and (F), which permit the withholding of
investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such records would
(C) constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,
(D) disclose the identity of a confidential source and, in the case of a record compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation, or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, ...