Appeal from an order of the Southern District of New York, Charles L. Brieant, Judge, denying disclosure of documents requested pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") 5 U.S.C. § 552 (1982). Affirmed.
OAKES and NEWMAN, Circuit Judges, and POLLACK, Senior District Judge.*fn*
POLLACK, Senior District Judge:
Joseph Patrick Thomas Doherty ("Doherty") appeals from a summary judgment of the Southern District of New York, Charles L. Brieant, Judge, dismissing Doherty's suit, filed pursuant to the Freedom of Information act ("FOIA") 5 U.S.C. § 552 (1982) for disclosure of documents from the files of the FBI. The District Court upheld the Government's claim of statutory exemption. Doherty challenges the applicability of the exemption on the ground that the Government's affidavits lack the specificity required to satisfy its burden of proof. He contends that the District court should have undertaken an in camera review of the disputed documents or, at a minimum, required a more particularized justification from the Government.
We affirm the District Court's decision to grant summary judgment, finding that the Government's affidavits sufficiently demonstrate that the exemptions apply.
This case arises out of a FOIA request partially rejected by the Government pursuant to exemptions set forth in 5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(1), (b)(7)(C), (b)(7)(D), and (b)(7)(E). On July 5, 1983, pursuant to the FOIA, Doherty sought copies of all documents retrievable in a search for files listed under his name from the Washington and New York City offices of the FBI. After the New York Office initially responded that it had not located documents filed under Doherty's name, the Washington office of the FBI advised plaintiff's attorney that it had located such documents in both Washington and New York. The FBI thereupon denied the request, asserting a blanket claim of exemption from disclosure under 5 U.S.C. § 552 (b)(7)(A). Doherty filed an administrative appeal with the Department of Justice, which affirmed the withholding.
Doherty then filed this lawsuit pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) to obtain the documents. The Government moved to dismiss the action on the basis that as an illegal alien, Doherty had no standing to sue under the FOIA. The District Court denied the motion, holding that the status of the requester is irrelevant in a FOIA case. Doherty v. Department of Justice, 596 F. Supp. 423 (S.D.N.Y. 1984).
The Government subsequently released some of the documents requested with substantial deletions (168 pages) and continued to withhold the rest (128 pages) asserting that the withheld portions were exempt from disclosure pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(1), (b)(7)(C), (b)(7)(D), and (b)(7)(E). The Government submitted affidavits by FBI agents Peterson and Scheuplein to support its claims of exemption and moved for summary judgment. Doherty opposed the motion and made a cross-motion requesting an in camera review of the disputed documents or, in the alternative, a more particularized justification.
The District Court granted the Government's motion for summary judgment and denied the cross-motion, stating that the "application of these statutory exemptions to the matter appears facially reasonable and is adequately explained. . . ." Judge Brieant focused on the (b)(1) exemption and concluded that disclosure of the balance of the documents would adversely affect national security. This appeal followed.
Doherty is a member of the Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army ("PIRA"). He was on trial in Northern Ireland for murder and attempted murder of a British army captain and for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. During his trial, Doherty escaped from prison in Belfast, He was convicted in absentia of the crimes mentioned above, and of belonging to the PIRA, a proscribed organization. Doherty was sentenced to a life term in prison. See In re Requested extradition of Doherty, 599 F. Supp. 270, 272 (S.D.N.Y. 1984). By using a false passport, he then illegally entered this country. Doherty's extradition was requested and in that proceeding, the judge specifically found that Doherty's acts were of a political character, committed to further the purposes of the PIRA. See id., at 277.
We need not reach the question of Doherty's standing to request documents under the FOIA because, under the circumstances, the merits of denying disclosure are sufficiently demonstrated by the Government's affidavits. The affidavits submitted make out a sufficient case for exemption. See Lead Industries Association v. OSHA, 610 F.2d 70, 87-88 (2d Cir. 1979). They describe with reasonable specificity the information withheld and the justifications for nondisclosure. See Military Audit Project v. Casey, 211 U.S. App. D.C. 135, 656 F.2d 724, 738 (D.C. Cir.1981).
The Government properly withheld documents containing foreign government information, information concerning intelligence activities, sources, and methods pursuant to exemption (b)(1).*fn1 The Peterson affidavit indicates that these documents were properly classified pursuant to Executive Order 12356. It also described the information withheld and the potential harm to national security which would result from disclosure. See Weissman v. CIA, 184 U.S. App. D.C. 117, 565 F.2d 692, 697 (D.C. Cir. 1977). Given the substantial weight to which agency classification decisions are ...