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Main St. Legal Servs., Inc. v. National Security Council

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 7, 2013

MAIN STREET LEGAL SERVICES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL, Defendant

Decided: August 6, 2013.

For Main Street Legal Services, Inc., Plaintiff: Ramzi Kassem, LEAD ATTORNEY, Main Street Legal Services, Inc., Cuny School Of Law, Long Island City, NY; Douglas Craig Cox, CUNY School of Law, Long Island City, NY.

For National Security Council, Defendant: Amy Powell, LEAD ATTORNEY, DOJ/Civil/Federal Programs, Washington, DC; Judson O. Littleton, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Federal Programs Branch, Washington, DC; Kathleen Anne Mahoney, United States Attorneys Office, Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, NY.

OPINION

Page 473

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

ERIC N. VITALIANO, United States District Judge.

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 552, plaintiff Main Street Legal Services, Inc. (" Main Street" ) seeks an order directing the National Security Council (" the NSC" or " the Council" ) to produce records pertaining to the use of drone strikes for targeted killings of suspected international terrorists, including American citizens, as well as all NSC meeting minutes from the year 2011. (Compl. (Dkt. No. 1) at 1). The NSC has moved to dismiss the claim under Rule 12(b)(6) on the ground that the NSC is not an agency subject to FOIA. (Def.'s Mem. (Dkt. No. 14) at 1). For the following reasons, the NSC's motion to dismiss is granted.

Background

I. Procedural History

By a letter dated November 27, 2012, Main Street submitted a FOIA request to the NSC seeking any and all records " related to the killing and attempted killing by drone strikes of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals,"as well as all" [NSC] meeting minutes taken in the year 2011." (Def.'s Mem., Ex. A, at 1). The NSC responded by a letter, dated December 14, 2012 (but postmarked January 18, 2013), asserting that, as a unit within the Executive Office of the President ("EOP"), the NSC was not an "agency," as that term appears in FOIA, and therefore not subject to the statute's requirements. (Def.'s Mem., Ex. B.). Undeterred, Main Street filed the present action on February 20, 2013, resting solely on FOIA and seeking an order requiring the NSC to produce the requested records. (Compl. at 1-2). On May 10, the NSC moved to dismiss Main Street's claim, reiterating its earlier assertion that the NSC is not an agency subject to FOIA. (Def.'s Mem. at 1).

II. The NSC

The NSC was established by Congress in the National Security Act of 1947, 61 Stat. 496 (codified at 50 U.S.C. § 402), and was formally placed within the EOP in 1949. According to its enabling act, the NSC's primary function is to " advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security so as to enable the military services and the other departments and agencies of the Government to cooperate more effectively in matters involving the national security." 50 U.S.C. § 402(a). The statute also directs the Council to " assess and appraise the objectives, commitments, and risks of the United States in relation to our actual and potential military power," and to " consider policies on matters of common interest to the departments and agencies of the Government concerned with the national security" in order to " make recommendations to the President in connection therewith." Id . § § 402 (b)(1)-(2). The President retains the authority to delegate additional responsibilities to the NSC as he deems necessary. Id . § 402(b).

The NSC is unique in its organizational structure in that it is chaired by the President personally. 50 U.S.C. § 402(a). Other Council members include the Vice-President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy, and other senior-level officials. 50 U.S.C. § § ...


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