United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
Harriett A. Ames, Appellant
United States Department of Homeland Security and United States Department of Defense, Appellees
Date April 20, 2017
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:13-cv-00629)
F. Karl, Jr. argued the cause for appellant. With him on the
briefs was Kristen Grim Hughes.
Taaffe, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the cause for
him on the brief was R. Craig Lawrence, Assistant U.S.
Patricia K. McBride, Assistant U.S. Attorney, entered an
Before: Henderson and Kavanaugh, Circuit Judges, and
Sentelle, Senior Circuit Judge.
Kavanaugh, Circuit Judge
Ames was Chief of the Personnel Security Branch in the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As Chief of the
Personnel Security Branch, Ames reviewed security clearance
applications for prospective DHS employees. In 2012, an
internal investigation by DHS's Office of Inspector
General determined that Ames had granted two security
clearances that should have been rejected. The Office of
Inspector General also found that Ames had made false
statements during the investigation. The Office of Inspector
General ultimately prepared a report documenting those
months before the Inspector General's report was
finished, however, Ames left her employment at DHS. Ames
obtained a position in the Personnel Security Division of the
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, an agency in the
Department of Defense. For ease of reference, we will refer
to Ames's new employer as DOD.
learning of Ames's move to another federal agency, the
DHS agent who prepared the Inspector General's report
(Special Agent K.C. Yi) sent the Inspector General's
report to DOD. After reviewing the Inspector General's
report and conducting its own review of the matter, DOD fired
subsequently sued DHS and DOD under the Privacy Act.
See 5 U.S.C. § 552a. Ames argued that DHS's
disclosure of the report to DOD violated the Privacy Act. In
a thorough and persuasive opinion, the District Court
rejected Ames's argument. We affirm. Like the District
Court, we conclude that DHS's disclosure of the Inspector
General's report to DOD was permissible under the Privacy
1974, Congress passed and President Ford signed the Privacy
Act. See Pub. L. No. 93-579, 88 Stat. 1896 (codified
as amended at 5 U.S.C. § 552a). As relevant here, the
Privacy Act forbids disclosure by executive and independent
agencies of "any record" to "any person, or to
another agency, " without the consent of the individual
to whom the record pertains. 5 U.S.C. § 552a(b).
Privacy Act contains some exceptions. As relevant here, the
Act allows an agency to make disclosures that constitute a
"routine use" of the record. Id. §
552a(b)(3). To fit within the confines of the routine use
exception to the Privacy Act, an agency's disclosure of a
record must be both (i) "for a purpose which is
compatible with the purpose for which it was collected"
and (ii) ...