Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 89cv00142)
Before: Wald, Silberman and Sentelle, Circuit Judges.
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT
Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge Sentelle.
Separate Dissenting Opinion filed by Circuit Judge Wald.
Appellant Scott Armstrong appeals from three of the district court's rulings in his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Armstrong argues that the district court erred by failing to conduct in camera review of four documents, by accepting an internally inconsistent explanation for why information in another document was withheld, and holding that the government need not reveal the names of lower-level FBI agents who participated in meetings at the White House. Armstrong initially raised a fourth contention that has since been mooted by the government's subsequent release of the document in question. We affirm the district court's ruling as to Armstrong's first two contentions. We reverse and remand the district court's judgment as to the third. We vacate the district court's judgment as to the issue that has now become moot.
The claims before this court today arise from a three-count lawsuit originally brought by Armstrong in 1989. This court has dealt with other issues arising from this case in Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President, 90 F.3d 553 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (petition for rehearing in banc pending), Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President, 1 F.3d 1274 (D.C. Cir. 1993), and Armstrong v. Bush, 924 F.2d 282 (D.C. Cir. 1991). The district court has issued numerous orders and opinions. Armstrong's original FOIA request was for all documents from the Reagan Administration found in the Professional Office System (PROFS) maintained by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and the National Security Council (NSC). PROFS is an office automation system that contains information such as e-mail correspondence, memoranda, and calendars. This initial request was for an enormous number of documents.
The number of documents requested has been substantially reduced over the course of this litigation. In February 1992, appellant narrowed his request to a subset of the PROFS materials. In September of that year the district court entered a stipulation and order that the government process and release PROFS materials that had already been printed out in hard copy. In January 1994, the district court entered another order, further narrowing the scope of appellant's request and ordering the government to comply. The scope of the request has been further limited by an agreement between the parties.
In response to these requests, the government has released a substantial number of documents, many of which have had portions redacted. Appellant has, over the years, challenged these redactions and the government has responded to some of these challenges by releasing the requested documents in full. The remaining redacted documents are described in the Vaughn index prepared for this litigation. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. Appellant requested that the district court review 17 documents in camera, urged the court to compel the disclosure of the names of lower-level FBI agents who attended White House meetings, and challenged the government's failure to disclose a one-page Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) document. The district court ruled that it would review four documents in camera, but upheld the government's refusal to disclose the names of the FBI agents and the OSTP document. After reviewing the four documents in camera, along with an in camera affidavit supplied by the government, the district court held that all of the redactions were justified. The issue regarding the OSTP document has been mooted by the government's disclosure of the document. Appellant now makes three challenges to the district court's ruling.
A. Issue 1-The District Court's Failure to Review Documents B-1, B-2, ...