Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


March 29, 2004.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM BASSLER, District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on a motion for summary judgment brought by defendant Central Intelligence Agency (the "Government", the "CIA" or "Defendant"), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff Simona Pipko ("Pipko" or "Plaintiff") opposes the Government's motion.

Plaintiff instituted this action, pursuant to the Freedom of Page 2 Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 ("FOIA"), and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, concerning a denial by the CIA to release certain documents requested by Plaintiff.

  This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and (e).

  For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.


  The parties do not dispute the background leading up to the current litigation.

  Plaintiff submitted a written FOIA/Privacy Act request to the CIA by letter dated October 29, 2001. (Compl. Ex. A.) Plaintiff's request sought any and all records maintained by the CIA on Simona Pipko a/k/a Simona Pipko-Bercovici. By letter dated January 2, 2002, Plaintiff's counsel provided the CIA with additional information, including copies of Plaintiff's birth certificate and United States Certificate of Naturalization, in support of Plaintiff's request. (Compl. Ex. B.)

  By letter dated January 7, 2002, the CIA acknowledged receipt of Plaintiff's FOIA/Privacy Act request, assigned the request a reference number of P-2001-00660, and agreed to process the request. (Compl. Ex. C.) By letter dated January 15, 2002, the CIA issued its final response to Plaintiff's FOIA/Privacy Act Page 3 request. The CIA represented that there were no documents available to Plaintiff under either FOIA or the Privacy Act. (Id.) The Government's January 15th letter stated: "You may construe this as a denial on the basis of FOIA exemptions (b)(1) and (b)(3) and Privacy Act exemptions (j)(1) and (k)(1)." (Id.) The CIA also notified Plaintiff of her right to file an appeal with the Agency Release Panel within 45 days of the date of the CIA's final response. (Id.)

  By letter dated February 28, 2002, Plaintiff appealed the CIA's final determination and requested "an explanation as to why [Plaintiff's] request for information was denied." (Compl. Ex. D.) Plaintiff counsel's February 28th letter stated that the "requested documents should be released under the FOIA due to the fact that the records are not being sought for commercial use." (Id.) Plaintiff further contended: "[I]t is in the public interest for the requested documents to be released, especially since the records will likely contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government." (Id.)

  By letter dated March 11, 2002, the CIA acknowledged receipt of Plaintiff's appeal. (Compl. Ex. E.) By letter dated May 23, 2002, the CIA denied Plaintiff's appeal, again concluding that there were no records available to Plaintiff under either FOIA or the Privacy Act. (Id.) The CIA also informed Plaintiff in its Page 4 May 23rd letter that Plaintiff had the right to seek judicial review of the CIA's decision in United States District Court.

  Plaintiff filed the current action on July 3, 2002. The CIA answered Plaintiff's Complaint and thereafter moved for summary judgment.


  I. Summary Judgment Standard

  A party seeking summary judgment must "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 47 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The applicable substantive law determines whether or not a fact is material. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. In determining whether genuine issues of material fact exist, all inferences must be drawn, and all doubts must be resolved, in favor of the non-moving party. Coregis Ins. Co. v. Baratta & Fenerty, Ltd., 264 F.3d 302, 305-306 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

  The moving party has the initial burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. If the moving party satisfies this requirement, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to present evidence that Page 5 there is a genuine issue of fact. Id. at 324.

  Courts apply the same summary judgment standard in FOIA and Privacy Act suits as in any other type of case. See Wojciechowicz v. Dep't of the Army, 763 F.2d 149, 153 (3d Cir. 1985) (Privacy Act); Perry v. Block, 684 F.2d 121, 126 (D.C. Cir. 1982) (FOIA).

  For an agency to succeed on a motion for summary judgment in a FOIA suit, it must "prove that each document that falls within the class requested either has been produced, is unidentifiable, or is wholly exempt from the (FOIA's) inspection requirements." Perry, 684 F.2d at 126 (internal quotations and citations omitted). An agency is entitled to summary judgment only "when the agency's affidavits describe the withheld information and the justification for withholding with reasonable specificity, demonstrating a logical connection between the information and the claimed exemption . . ., and are not controverted by either contrary evidence in the record nor by evidence of agency bad faith." Davin v. United States Dep't of Justice, 60 F.3d 1043, 1050 (3d Cir. 1995) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

  Because the requested documents are often solely in the possession of the defending agency, when evaluating the adequacy of the agency's identification and retrieval efforts, "the trial court may be warranted in relying upon agency affidavits, for Page 6 these are equally trustworthy when they aver that all documents have been produced or are unidentifiable as when they aver ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.