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Terkel v. Kelly

decided: May 25, 1979.

LOUIS (STUDS) TERKEL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CLARENCE KELLY, EDWARD LEVI, THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, AND THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 76 C 1626 -- Frank J. McGarr, Judge.

Before Tone, Lay,*fn* and Bauer, Circuit Judges.

Author: Bauer

This is an appeal arising under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552. The appellant Louis ("Studs") Terkel requested the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide him with "a copy of all files in the FBI indexed or maintained under my name and all documents containing my name." The FBI released 146 pages of documents,*fn1 but withheld some material under provisions of the Act permitting non-disclosure. Terkel subsequently instituted an action in the district court to compel disclosure of the withheld material. After reviewing the affidavits and attachments, the district court granted the government's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, Terkel argues that the lower court erred in failing to conduct an In camera examination of the challenged material.

I.

A brief outline of the relevant statutory framework will provide a useful point of departure. In 1974 Congress amended the FOIA provisions that governed the role of a reviewing court in considering claims of exemptions under the Act. The 1974 revision provided that

"the court shall determine the matter De novo, and may examine the contents of such agency records In camera to determine whether such records or any part thereof shall be withheld under any of the exemptions set forth in subsection (b) of this section, and the burden is on the agency to sustain its action." 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) (1974).

The Conference Report accompanying the amendments explained that "(w)hile In camera examination need not be automatic, in many situations it will plainly be necessary and appropriate." S.Rep.No.93-1200, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. 9 (1974), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News, 1974, pp. 6267, 6287.

In the case at hand, the FBI has relied on several exemptions under the FOIA to withhold various documents or portions thereof from the appellant. One of the claimed exemptions is § 552(b)(1), which, as amended, exempts matters that are "(A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order." On the role of the reviewing court in dealing with this exemption, the Conference Committee Report noted that

"the Executive departments responsible for national defense and foreign policy matters have unique insights into what adverse effects might occur as a result of public disclosure of a particular classified record. Accordingly, the conferees expect that Federal courts, in making De novo determinations in Section 552(b)(1) cases under the Freedom of Information law, Will accord substantial weight to an agency's affidavit concerning the details of the classified status of the disputed record." S.Rep.No.93-1200, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. 12 (1974) U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1974, p. 6290 (emphasis added).

In withholding other portions of the documents, the FBI relied on subparagraphs (C), (D) and (E) of § 552(b)(7). As amended, these subparagraphs provide that investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes may be withheld if 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, confidential information furnished only by the confidential source, (E) disclose investigative techniques and procedures . . .."

According to Senator Hart, who introduced the amended version of Exemption 7 on the Senate floor, the purpose of subparagraph (C) is to "protect the privacy of any person who is mentioned in the requested files, and not only the person who is the object of the investigation." Freedom of Information Act and Amendments of 1974 (P.L. 93-502) Source Book, Legislative History, Texts and Other Documents, Joint Committee Print, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. 334 (hereinafter cited as Sourcebook). Similarly, the purpose of subparagraph (D) is to protect

"the identity of a person other than a paid informer . . . if the person provided information under an express assurance of confidentiality or in circumstances from which such an assurance could reasonably be inferred. Under this category, in every case where the investigatory records sought were compiled for law enforcement purposes either civil or criminal in nature the agency can withhold the names, addresses, and other information that would reveal the identity of a confidential source who furnished the information." Conf.Rep.No. 93-1380, 93d Cong., 2d Sess.; Sourcebook, p. 230.

It is noteworthy that under subparagraph (D) the agency can withhold not only the identity of the source but also the "confidential information" that ...


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