Monday, September 15, 2014

Denial of Freedom of Information Act request upheld

Watters v.Department of Justice, 2014 WL 3893298 (8/11/14) (Okl.) (unpub'd) - The Tenth affirms a denial of Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") requests of the FBI and ATF to obtain exculpatory information to challenge a drug conviction. It was okay to withhold identifying information of many folks, including FBI agents, an AUSA, state and local law enforcement employees, people of investigative interest and those providing information. The privacy interests of those people overrides Mr. Watters' personal interests. The FOIA purpose of revealing government wrongdoing isn't implicated because Mr. Watters presented no evidence of wrongdoing. Nor did Mr. Waters show that disclosure would contribute to the public's understanding of government-related activities. It was okay to conceal information about a third party of interest due to that person's fugitive status, despite Mr. Watters' contention that the government really wasn't trying to capture that person. It was also fine to withhold information furnished by commercial/private companies and other non-government entities because the government obtained the information under an express confidentiality assurance. This is so even though Mr. Watters knows who the confidential sources are.