American Civil Liberties Union v. Dept. of Justice, No. 10-4290 (2d Cir. 2012)

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Justia Opinion Summary

The Government appealed from the district court's judgment requiring the Government to disclose, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, information redacted from two memoranda prepared by the OLC. The Government contended that the redactions were justified under FOIA because the information pertained to a highly classified, active intelligence method. The court concluded that the Government could withhold this information under FOIA Exemption 1. Plaintiffs challenged the judgment insofar as it sustained the Government's withholding of certain records relating to the use of waterboarding and a photograph of a high-value detainee in custody. The court agreed with the district court that the materials at issue were exempt from disclosure. The district court erred, however, in requiring the Government to disclose the classified information redacted from the two memoranda.

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10-4290-cv(L), 10-4289-cv(CON), 10-4647-cv(XAP), 10-4668-cv(XAP) ACLU v. Dep t of Justice 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT August Term, 2011 (Argued: March 9, 2012 Decided: May 21, 2012) Docket Nos. 10-4290-cv(L), 10-4289-cv(CON), 10-4647-cv(XAP), 10-4668-cv(XAP) AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, INCORPORATED, PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, VETERANS FOR COMMON SENSE, VETERANS FOR PEACE, Plaintiffs-Appellees-Cross-Appellants, v. DEPARTMENT JUSTICE, and its component Office of Legal Counsel, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, OF Defendants-Appellants-Cross-Appellees, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, and its components Department of Army, Department of Navy, Department of Air Force, Defense Intelligence Agency, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, DEPARTMENT OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE components Civil Rights Division, Criminal Division, Office of Information and Privacy, Office of Intelligence, Policy and Review, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defendants. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 Before: WESLEY, CARNEY, Circuit Judges, and CEDARBAUM, District Judge.* Appeal and cross-appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Hellerstein, J.), granting the parties motions for partial summary judgment with respect to Plaintiffs Freedom of Information Act request for the disclosure of records concerning the treatment of detainees in United States custody abroad since September 11, 2001. The Government challenges the portion of the judgment requiring it to disclose information in two memoranda pertaining to what the Government considers a highly classified, active intelligence method. Plaintiffs challenge the judgment insofar as it sustained the Government s withholding of certain records relating to the use of waterboarding and a photograph of a high-value detainee in custody. We agree with the district court that the materials at issue in Plaintiffs cross-appeal are exempt from disclosure. The district court erred, however, in requiring the Government to disclose the classified information redacted from the two memoranda. AFFIRMED in part and REVERSED in part. TARA M. LA MORTE, Assistant United States Attorney (Amy A. Barcelo, Sarah S. Normand, Assistant United States Attorneys, on the brief), for Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, New York, NY; (Tony West, Assistant Attorney General, Ian Heath Gershengorn, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Douglas N. Letter, Matthew M. Collette, Attorneys, Civil Division, Appellate Staff, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., on the brief), for DefendantsAppellants-Cross-Appellees. * The Honorable Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, sitting by designation. 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 ALEXANDER A. ABDO (Jameel Jaffer, Judy Rabinovitz, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York, NY; Lawrence S. Lustberg, Alicia L. Bannon, Gibbons, P.C., Newark, NJ; Michael Ratner, Gitanjali Gutierrez, Emilou MacClean, Shayana Kadidal, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, NY; Beth Haroules, Arthur Eisenberg, New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York, NY, on the brief), for Plaintiffs-Appellees-Cross-Appellants. WESLEY, Circuit Judge: The Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA ), the Department 16 of Justice ( DOJ ), and its component Office of Legal 17 Counsel ( OLC ) (collectively the Government ) appeal from 18 a portion of an October 1, 2010 judgment of the United 19 States District Court for the Southern District of New York 20 (Hellerstein, J.), requiring the Government to disclose, 21 pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ( FOIA ), 22 information redacted from two memoranda prepared by the OLC. 23 The Government contends that the redactions are justified 24 under FOIA because the information pertains to a highly 25 classified, active intelligence method. 26 the Government may withhold this information under FOIA 27 Exemption 1. 28 insofar as it required disclosure. 29 We conclude that We thus reverse the district court s judgment The American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU ), Center for 3 1 Constitutional Rights, Incorporated, Physicians for Human 2 Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace 3 (collectively Plaintiffs ) appeal from the same judgment 4 insofar as it upheld the Government s withholding of records 5 relating to the CIA s use of the Enhanced Interrogation 6 Technique ( EIT ) of waterboarding and a photograph of high- 7 value detainee Abu Zubaydah, taken while he was in CIA 8 custody abroad. 9 photograph may not be withheld under either FOIA Exemption 1 Plaintiffs contend that the records and 10 or 3 because the President has declared the practice of 11 waterboarding illegal and the Government has failed to 12 justify adequately its withholding of the photograph. 13 disagree and hold that the President s declaration and 14 prohibition of the future use of waterboarding do not affect 15 the Government s otherwise valid authority to withhold the 16 records under Exemption 3. 17 that both the records and photograph are exempt from 18 disclosure under FOIA Exemption 3 and thus affirm that part 19 of the judgment. 20 21 22 We We agree with the district court BACKGROUND On October 7, 2003, Plaintiffs submitted a FOIA request to the CIA, DOJ, and other federal agencies, seeking the 4 1 disclosure of records concerning (1) the treatment of 2 detainees; (2) the deaths of detainees while in United 3 States custody; and (3) the rendition, since September 11, 4 2001, of detainees and other individuals to countries known 5 to employ torture or illegal interrogation methods. 6 January 31, 2005, Plaintiffs served a FOIA request on the 7 OLC, incorporating by reference their October 7, 2003 8 request and enumerating a non-exhaustive list of documents 9 falling within the scope of Plaintiffs request. 10 On Within a year of each request, Plaintiffs filed 11 separate complaints seeking to compel the Government to 12 release any responsive documents it had withheld from 13 disclosure. 14 court ordered the Government to produce or identify all 15 records responsive to Plaintiffs request. 16 Def., 339 F. Supp. 2d 501, 505 (S.D.N.Y. 2004). 17 time, the Government has disclosed thousands of documents in 18 response to Plaintiffs FOIA requests. 19 20 I. Facts and Procedural History Relevant to the Government s Appeal 21 Among the documents disclosed by the Government are With respect to the first action, the district ACLU v. Dep t of Since that 22 four memoranda authored by the OLC between August 1, 2002 23 and May 30, 2005, analyzing legal questions with respect to 5 1 the application of EITs to detainees held in CIA custody 2 abroad. 3 in full, but subsequently, on April 16, 2009, released 4 unclassified versions of the memoranda with limited 5 redactions. 6 Government s appeal is discussed in two of these memoranda, 7 dated May 10, 2005 and May 30, 2005, respectively. 8 Government redacted references to the classified 9 information along with other information not relevant to The Government initially withheld these memoranda The classified information at issue in the The 10 this appeal pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 1 and 3 on the basis 11 that records related to intelligence methods, 12 intelligence activities, and CIA functions are exempt 13 from disclosure.1 14 summary judgment with regard to these redactions from the 15 OLC memoranda. 16 The parties filed cross-motions for The district court reviewed the unredacted OLC 1 Exemption 1 provides for the nondisclosure of matters that are (A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1). Exemption 3 provides for the nondisclosure of matters that are specifically exempted from disclosure by statute, provided that the statute requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue or establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld. Id. § 552(b)(3). 6 1 memoranda in a series of ex parte, in camera sessions. 2 also reviewed several declarations from high-level executive 3 branch officials supporting the Government s withholding of 4 the redacted information. 5 district court issued a preliminary ruling that all but one 6 of the references to the classified information must be 7 disclosed, without explaining why it treated that sole 8 reference differently. 9 references, the district court held that publicly disclosing 10 that information would reveal not an intelligence method but 11 only a source of the CIA s authority. 12 also found that the references are so general in nature that 13 their disclosure would not compromise national security. 14 The district court nevertheless permitted the Government to 15 submit additional declarations justifying its position that 16 the information was exempt from disclosure. 17 It At the first session, the With respect to the other The district court During a subsequent in camera session, the district 18 court reaffirmed its preliminary ruling and explained that 19 it viewed the classified information as a source of 20 authority for interrogation rather than a method of 21 interrogation. 22 court offered to allow the Government to replace references As a compromise, however, the district 7 1 to the classified information with alternative language 2 meant to preserve the meaning of the text. 3 court acknowledged the national security concerns 4 potentially raised by the disclosure of some of the 5 classified information, but nevertheless ordered that the 6 Government either disclose the information or comply with 7 the court s proposed compromise. 8 ordered that references to the classified information in the 9 transcript of the first ex parte, in camera proceeding be The district The district court also 10 disclosed or otherwise released in accordance with the 11 compromise. 12 in a December 29, 2009 order. 13 from that order. 14 15 16 17 II. Facts and Procedural History Relevant to Plaintiffs Cross-Appeal 18 response to Plaintiffs FOIA requests relate to the use of 19 EITs. 20 prohibited the future use of certain EITs, including 21 waterboarding, formerly authorized for use on high-value 22 detainees.2 The district court memorialized its oral ruling The Government now appeals Many of the documents released by the Government in During the course of this litigation, the President On May 7, 2009, the district court ordered the 2 On January 22, 2009, the President issued an executive order terminating the CIA s detention and interrogation program 8 1 Government to compile a list of documents related to the 2 contents of 92 destroyed videotapes of detainee 3 interrogations that occurred between April and December 2002 4 and which would otherwise have been responsive to 5 Plaintiffs FOIA requests. 6 identified 580 documents and selected a sample of 65 7 documents for the district court to review for potential 8 release. 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢ Pursuant to that order, the CIA Specifically, the sample records comprise: 53 cables (operational communications) between CIA headquarters and an interrogation facility; 3 emails postdating the videotapes destruction; 2 logbooks detailing observations of interrogation sessions; 1 set of handwritten notes from a meeting between a CIA employee and a CIA attorney; 2 memoranda containing descriptions of the contents of the videotapes; 1 set of handwritten notes taken during a review of the videotapes; 2 records summarizing details of waterboard exposures from the destroyed videotapes; and 1 photograph of Abu Zubaydah dated October 11, 2002. and mandating that individuals in United States custody not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2-22.3. Exec. Order No. 13,491, 74 Fed. Reg. 4,893, 4,894 (Jan. 22, 2009). Moreover, in an April 29, 2009 news conference, the President explained the basis for his ban on the use of waterboarding: [W]aterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. I don t think that s just my opinion; that s the opinion of many who ve examined the topic. And that s why I put an end to these practices. President Barack Obama, News Conference by the President (Apr. 29, 2009), http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-pressoffice/news-conference-president-4292009. 9 1 2 The Government withheld these records pursuant to FOIA 3 Exemptions 1 and 3, and the parties filed cross-motions for 4 summary judgment with regard to whether the records were 5 exempt from disclosure.3 6 The Government defended its withholding of the records 7 with three declarations of then-CIA Director Leon Panetta. 8 The declarations explained that the records consist 9 primarily of communications to CIA headquarters from a 10 covert CIA facility where interrogations were being 11 conducted, and include sensitive intelligence and 12 operational information concerning interrogations of Abu 13 Zubaydah. 14 to Exemption 3, the declarations explained that, if 15 disclosed, the records would reveal intelligence sources 16 and methods employed by the CIA, as well as the 17 organization and functions of the CIA, including the conduct 18 of clandestine intelligence activities to collect 19 intelligence from human sources using interrogation 20 methods. Panetta Decl. ¶ 5, June 8, 2009. Id. ¶¶ 32, 35. With respect With respect to Exemption 1, the 3 The Government also withheld portions of the records pursuant to other FOIA Exemptions. Plaintiffs do not challenge those withholdings on appeal. 10 1 declarations asserted that the records were properly 2 classified pursuant to Executive Order No. 12,958 and that 3 their disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in 4 harm to national security. 5 In response, Plaintiffs argued that the EITs were not 6 intelligence methods within the meaning of the CIA s 7 withholding authorities because they had been repudiated, 8 and, in the case of waterboarding, declared unlawful by the 9 President. Plaintiffs also argued that the CIA had failed 10 to provide any explanation for withholding the photograph of 11 Abu Zubaydah under either Exemption 1 or 3. 12 On September 30, 2009, the district court reviewed the 13 photograph and a portion of the sample records in an ex 14 parte, in camera session. 15 preliminary rulings upholding the Government s nondisclosure 16 of all but one document. 17 Plaintiffs cross-appeal. 18 Abu Zubaydah, the Government asserted that it was actually 19 a CIA photo of a person in custody, and the court accepted 20 the Government s position that a photograph of a detainee 21 reveals a lot more information than the detainee s 22 identity. The district court made That document is not at issue in With respect to the photograph of During the public hearing, the district court 11 1 rejected Plaintiffs argument that the President s 2 declaration was a sufficient basis for rejecting the 3 Government s position. 4 would decline to rule on the question of legality or 5 illegality in the context of a FOIA request. 6 Rebuffing Plaintiffs argument that the photo should be 7 produced because the Government offered no justification for 8 its withholding, the district court sustained the 9 withholding and explained that the image of a person in a The district court explained that it J.A. 1105-06. 10 photograph is another aspect of information that is 11 important in intelligence gathering. 12 J.A. 1115. The district court memorialized its rulings in an 13 October 13, 2009 order. 14 the records under FOIA Exemption 3, the district court 15 concluded that the CIA had satisfied its burden of showing 16 that the release of the records could reasonably be expected 17 to lead to unauthorized disclosure of intelligence sources 18 and methods. 19 argument that records relating to illegal activities are 20 beyond the scope of Exemption 3. 21 22 In sustaining the withholding of The district court also rejected Plaintiffs In a July 15, 2010 order, the district court denied Plaintiffs motion for reconsideration of its October 2009 12 1 order. 2 that neither statutory language nor case law supports 3 Plaintiffs contention that the legality of the underlying 4 intelligence source or method bears upon the validity of an 5 Exemption 3 withholding. 6 In doing so, the district court reaffirmed its view On October 1, 2010, the district court entered partial 7 final judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 54(b), granting Plaintiffs summary judgment with regard to 9 the Government s withholding of the classified information 10 in the two OLC memoranda, and granting the Government 11 summary judgment with regard to the nondisclosure of records 12 related to the contents of the destroyed videotapes and the 13 photograph. 14 records reflecting the CIA s use of waterboarding and to the 15 photograph of Abu Zubaydah. Plaintiffs limit their cross-appeal to those DISCUSSION 16 17 The Freedom of Information Act calls for broad 18 disclosure of Government records. CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 19 159, 166 (1985). 20 government records may not always be in the public interest. 21 Thus, Congress provided that some records may be withheld 22 from disclosure under any of nine exemptions defined in 5 But public disclosure of certain 13 1 2 U.S.C. § 552(b). Id. at 167. An agency withholding documents responsive to a FOIA 3 request bears the burden of proving the applicability of 4 claimed exemptions. 5 2009). 6 detailed explanations why any withheld documents fall within 7 an exemption are sufficient to sustain the agency s burden. 8 Carney v. U.S. Dep t of Justice, 19 F.3d 807, 812 (2d Cir. 9 1994). Wilner v. NSA, 592 F.3d 60, 68 (2d Cir. Affidavits or declarations . . . giving reasonably We review the adequacy of the agency s 10 justifications de novo. Wilner, 592 F.3d at 73. In the 11 national security context, however, we must accord 12 substantial weight to an agency s affidavit concerning the 13 details of the classified status of the disputed record. 14 Wolf v. CIA, 473 F.3d 370, 374 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (internal 15 quotation marks omitted); see also Sims, 471 U.S. at 179. 16 Summary judgment is appropriate where the agency affidavits 17 describe the justifications for nondisclosure with 18 reasonably specific detail, demonstrate that the information 19 withheld logically falls within the claimed exemption, and 20 are not controverted by either contrary evidence in the 21 record nor by evidence of agency bad faith. 22 F.3d at 73. Wilner, 592 Ultimately, an agency may invoke a FOIA 14 1 exemption if its justification appears logical or 2 plausible. 3 I. The Government s Appeal The OLC Memoranda 4 Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). The Government contends that the information redacted 5 from the OLC memoranda may be withheld from disclosure under 6 either FOIA Exemption 1 or 3. 7 resolves the matter easily.4 8 Government to withhold information specifically authorized 9 under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept In our view, Exemption 1 Exemption 1 permits the 10 secret in the interest of national defense or foreign 11 policy if that information has been properly classified 12 pursuant to such Executive order. 13 The Government contends that the redacted information was 14 properly classified under Executive Order No. 12,958, as 15 amended, which authorized the classification of information 16 concerning intelligence activities (including special 17 activities), intelligence sources or methods, or 18 cryptology. 19 19,825 (Apr. 17, 1995), as amended by Exec. Order No. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1). Exec. Order No. 12,958 § 1.5(c), 60 Fed. Reg. 4 Because the FOIA Exemptions are independent of each other, we need only discuss why we conclude that the Government may invoke FOIA Exemption 1 to justify withholding the redacted information in the OLC memoranda. See Wilner, 592 F.3d at 72 (citing Larson v. Dep t of State, 565 F.3d 857, 862-63 (D.C. Cir. 2009)). 15 1 13,292, 68 Fed. Reg. 15,315 (Mar. 25, 2003) (hereinafter 2 Exec. Order No. 12,958 ).5 3 required as a condition to classification that an original 4 classification authority determine[] that the unauthorized 5 disclosure of the information reasonably could be expected 6 to result in damage to the national security and is able 7 to identify or describe the damage. 8 Fed. Reg. at 15,315.6 9 Executive Order No. 12,958 also Id. § 1.1(a)(4), 68 The district court held that the exemption was 10 inapplicable because, in its view, the information pertains 11 to a source of authority rather than a method of 12 interrogation. 13 district court, the Government contends that the information 14 pertains to an intelligence method and an intelligence J.A. 1174-75.7 On appeal, as it did in the 5 Executive Order No. 12,958 and all amendments thereto have since been superseded by Executive Order No. 13,526, 75 Fed. Reg. 707 (Dec. 29, 2009). For purposes of Exemption 1, the propriety of a classification decision is considered under the criteria of the executive order that applied when the decision was made. See Halpern v. FBI, 181 F.3d 279, 289 (2d Cir. 1999). 6 The parties do not dispute whether the remaining criteria for proper classification have been satisfied. See Exec. Order No. 12,958 § 1.1(a), 68 Fed. Reg. at 15,315. 7 Addressing only the applicability of Exemption 3, the district court concluded that the information does not pertain to an intelligence method and therefore was not exempt. It made no express ruling on whether the information relates to an intelligence activity under FOIA Exemption 1. 16 1 activity, and that each category provides a basis for 2 classification under Executive Order No. 12,958. 3 of this contention, the Government has submitted 4 declarations from General James L. Jones, then-Assistant to 5 the President for National Security and National Security 6 Advisor; General Michael V. Hayden, then-Director of the 7 CIA; Leon Panetta, then-Director of the CIA; and Wendy M. 8 Hilton, Information Review Officer for Detainee-Related 9 Matters for the CIA. 10 In support Based on our ex parte and in camera review of the 11 unredacted OLC memoranda and the Government s classified 12 declarations, we agree with the Government that the redacted 13 information was properly classified because it pertains to 14 an intelligence activity. 15 we were to characterize the information as a source of 16 authority, withholding [a] source of authority itself is 17 . . . proper if disclosing it would reveal . . . 18 intelligence sources, methods, or activities. 19 40-41. 20 declarations, which establish that disclosing the redacted 21 portions of the OLC memoranda would reveal the existence and 22 scope of a highly classified, active intelligence activity. Plaintiffs concede that, even if Pls. Br. We give substantial weight to the Government s 17 1 See Doherty v. U.S. Dep t of Justice, 775 F.2d 49, 52 (2d 2 Cir. 1985). 3 We reject any notion that to sustain the Government s 4 assertion that the withheld information concerns a protected 5 intelligence activity under Executive Order No. 12,958 is 6 effectively to exempt the CIA from FOIA s mandate. 7 response to Plaintiffs FOIA requests and related court 8 orders, the Government has already produced substantial 9 information about its use of EITs, including almost all of In 10 the contents of the OLC memoranda. 11 limited material it has withheld from disclosure, the 12 Government has sustained its burden by giving reasonably 13 detailed explanations of how the information pertains to a 14 classified intelligence activity. 15 With regard to the Carney, 19 F.3d at 812. On appeal, Plaintiffs do not dispute that the 16 Government has established that public disclosure of the 17 redacted information reasonably could be expected to result 18 in damage to the national security. Exec. Order No. 12,958 19 § 1.1(a)(4), 68 Fed. Reg. at 15,315. Nor do we. 20 consistently deferred to executive affidavits predicting 21 harm to the national security, and have found it unwise to 22 undertake searching judicial review. 18 [W]e have Ctr. for Nat l Sec. 1 Studies v. U.S. Dep t of Justice, 331 F.3d 918, 927 (D.C. 2 Cir. 2003). 3 executive and judiciary, we believe that it is bad law and 4 bad policy to second-guess the predictive judgments made by 5 the government s intelligence agencies regarding whether 6 disclosure of the information redacted from the OLC 7 memoranda would pose a threat to national security. 8 592 F.3d at 76 (internal quotation marks omitted). Recognizing the relative competencies of the Wilner, 9 The Government s declarations describe in persuasive 10 detail how revealing the redacted information would cause 11 exceptionally grave harm to national security by (1) 12 damaging on-going activities and relationships with foreign 13 intelligence liaison partners, which are of utmost 14 importance to the CIA s overseas intelligence operations, 15 Hilton Decl. ¶ 9(a), May 7, 2010; (2) alerting our 16 adversaries of the existence of [the] intelligence method, 17 which would give them the opportunity to alter their conduct 18 to adapt to this new information and make future 19 intelligence operations more dangerous and less effective, 20 id. ¶ 9(b); and (3) increasing the risks for all 21 individuals involved in those operations, including CIA 22 officers and assets, id. ¶ 9(c). 19 According substantial 1 weight and deference to the CIA s declarations, see Doherty, 2 775 F.2d at 52, we conclude that it is both logical and 3 plausible that the disclosure of the information pertaining 4 to a CIA intelligence activity would harm national security. 5 Furthermore, we reject the district court s suggestion 6 that certain portions of the redacted information are so 7 general in relation to previously disclosed activities of 8 the CIA that their disclosure would not compromise national 9 security. It is true that the Government has disclosed 10 significant aspects of the CIA s discontinued detention and 11 interrogation program, but its declarations explain in great 12 detail how the withheld information pertains to intelligence 13 activities unrelated to the discontinued program. 14 Decl. ¶ 6. 15 innocuous in the context of what is already known by the 16 public, [m]inor details of intelligence information may 17 reveal more information than their apparent insignificance 18 suggests because, much like a piece of jigsaw puzzle, each 19 detail may aid in piecing together other bits of information 20 even when the individual piece is not of obvious importance 21 in itself. 22 internal quotation marks omitted); see also Sims, 471 U.S. Hilton And even if the redacted information seems Wilner, 592 F.3d at 73 (alterations and 20 1 at 178; ACLU v. U.S. Dep t of Defense, 628 F.3d 612, 625 2 (D.C. Cir. 2011). 3 that disclosure of the redacted information would jeopardize 4 the CIA s ability to conduct its intelligence operations and 5 work with foreign intelligence liaison partners. 6 Again, it is both logical and plausible Both parties contend that the district court s 7 compromise, whereby the Government could avoid public 8 disclosure of the redacted information by substituting a 9 purportedly neutral phrase composed by the court, exceeded 10 the court s authority under FOIA. We agree. FOIA does not 11 permit courts to compel an agency to produce anything other 12 than responsive, non-exempt records. 13 § 552(a)(4)(B). 14 OLC memoranda in accordance with the compromise, the 15 Government would effectively be creating 16 documents something FOIA does not obligate agencies to do. 17 See, e.g., Kissinger v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the 18 Press, 445 U.S. 136, 152 (1980); Pierce & Stevens Chem. 19 Corp. v. U.S. Consumer Prod. Safety Comm n, 585 F.2d 1382, 20 1388 (2d Cir. 1978). 21 competencies of the executive and judiciary, the district 22 court erred in second-guess[ing] the executive s judgment See 5 U.S.C. If the Government altered or modified the Moreover, given the relative 21 1 of the harm to national security that would likely result 2 from disclosure, by crafting substitute text that in its own 3 view would avoid the harms that could result from disclosure 4 of the information in full. 5 See Wilner, 592 F.3d at 76. The district court s apparent reliance on the 6 Classified Information Procedures Act ( CIPA ), 18 U.S.C. 7 app. 3, §§ 1-16, as a basis for the compromise was 8 erroneous.8 9 CIPA applies exclusively to criminal cases. Contrary to the district court s assertion, See 18 U.S.C. 10 app. 3, §§ 2-3, 5. Indeed, CIPA is codified as the third 11 appendix to Title 18 of the U.S. Code, which concerns crimes 12 and criminal procedure, and we have found no case law 13 supporting the district court s adoption of CIPA in a FOIA 14 context such as this.9 8 Although the district court referred to the CISA, Confidential Information Securities Act, J.A. 1184-85, it appears that the court intended to refer to CIPA because there is no Confidential Information Securities Act and the court described the statute as providing a procedure for the introduction of classified information at trial. Id. 9 The procedures of CIPA contrast sharply with those of FOIA. For example, under CIPA, when the court authorizes a defendant to disclose classified information during trial, the Government may move for the substitution of a summary of such classified information in lieu of the information itself, 18 U.S.C. app. 3, § 6(c), to harmonize a defendant s right to obtain and present exculpatory material upon his trial and the government s right to protect classified material in the national interest, United States v. Pappas, 94 F.3d 795, 799 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted). Significantly, the 22 1 The Government sufficiently explained that the withheld 2 information pertains to an intelligence activity and that 3 disclosure of the information would likely result in harm to 4 national security. 5 contradicted by the record, and there is no evidence of bad 6 faith by the Government in this regard. 7 Government has sustained its burden of proving that the 8 information redacted from the OLC memoranda is exempt from 9 disclosure under FOIA Exemption 1. The Government s declarations are not Accordingly, the See Wilner, 592 F.3d at 10 73. 11 insofar as it required disclosure of the information either 12 in full or in accordance with the district court s 13 compromise in the OLC memoranda and the transcript of the 14 district court s ex parte, in camera proceeding. 15 II. Materials at Issue in Plaintiffs Cross-Appeal 16 We therefore reverse the district court s judgment The district court agreed with the Government that the 17 records related to the contents of destroyed videotapes of 18 detainee interrogations and a photograph of high-value Government retains ultimate control and may prevent a criminal defendant from disclosing classified information, with the consequence of the court either dismissing the indictment or taking another action adverse to the prosecution. See 18 U.S.C. app. 3, § 6(e). By contrast, the Government cannot walk away from a FOIA case in order to avoid disclosure of classified information. 23 1 detainee Abu Zubaydah in CIA custody may be withheld from 2 disclosure under FOIA Exemption 3. 3 withholding of only those records relating to the CIA s use 4 of waterboarding and the photograph. 5 Plaintiffs challenge the Exemption 3 permits the Government to withhold 6 information from public disclosure provided that: (1) the 7 information is specifically exempted from disclosure by 8 statute ; and (2) the exemption statute requires that the 9 matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to 10 leave no discretion on the issue or establishes particular 11 criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of 12 matters to be withheld. 13 471 U.S. at 167-68. 14 records and photograph pertain to an intelligence method 15 under section 102A(i)(1) of the National Security Act of 16 1947 ( NSA ) and CIA functions under section 6 of the 17 Central Intelligence Act of 1949, which include the 18 collection of intelligence through human sources, see 50 19 U.S.C. § 403-4a(d).10 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3); see Sims, Here, the Government contends that the Plaintiffs do not dispute that these 10 Section 102A(i)(1) of the National Security Act of 1947, as amended, 50 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., requires the Director of National Intelligence to protect intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure. 50 U.S.C. § 403-1(i)(1). Section 6 of the Central Intelligence Act of 1949, as amended, 50 U.S.C. § 403 et seq., provides that the CIA shall be exempted 24 1 statutes qualify as exemption statutes under Exemption 3. 2 See Larson, 565 F.3d at 865; Baker v. CIA, 580 F.2d 664, 667 3 (D.C. Cir. 1978). 4 whether the withheld material relates to an intelligence 5 method or functions of the CIA. 6 Phillippi v. CIA, 546 F.2d 1009, 1015 n.14 (D.C. Cir. 7 1976).11 8 A. The Interrogation Records 9 Thus, our only remaining inquiry is Larson, 565 F.3d at 865; Plaintiffs contend that the records regarding the use 10 of waterboarding in particular instances do not relate to an 11 intelligence method because the President has declared the 12 practice of waterboarding illegal. 13 Court s decision in CIA v. Sims, Plaintiffs argue that the 14 CIA may decline to disclose only records relating to those 15 intelligence methods that fall within the CIA s charter. 16 Plaintiffs argue that because an illegal activity cannot be 17 said to fall within the Agency s mandate to conduct foreign Relying on the Supreme from the provisions of any other law which require the publication or disclosure of the functions of the Agency. U.S.C. § 403g. 11 50 Because, as previously discussed, FOIA exemptions are independent of each other, we explain only our conclusion that the Government may invoke FOIA exemption 3 to justify withholding the interrogation records and the photograph. See supra note 4. We do not address the possible coverage provided these materials by Exemption 1. 25 1 intelligence, Sims, 471 U.S. at 169, waterboarding cannot 2 be an intelligence method within the meaning of the CIA s 3 withholding authorities.12 4 We do not agree. Sims offers no support for 5 Plaintiffs proposed limitation upon the CIA s ability to 6 protect information relating to intelligence methods. 7 the contrary, the Sims Court emphasized that the NSA vested 8 in the Director of Central Intelligence very broad authority 9 to protect all sources of intelligence information from On 10 disclosure, and that judicial narrowing of this authority 11 not only contravenes the express intention of Congress, but 12 also overlooks the practical necessities of modern 13 intelligence gathering the very reason Congress entrusted 14 this Agency with sweeping power to protect its intelligence 15 sources and methods. 16 to the Court, the plain meaning of intelligence sources 17 and methods in this context, may not be squared with any Sims, 471 U.S. at 168 69. 12 According Plaintiffs concede that an illegal act may produce information that may be properly withheld under FOIA Exemptions 1 and 3. Plaintiffs do not seek disclosure of information that may otherwise be classified for reasons apart from the fact that it would disclose details of the use of waterboarding. To the extent the records discuss such information, such as questions asked during an interrogation or intelligence gathered from an interrogation session, Plaintiffs agree that the information should be segregated and may remain classified. 26 1 limiting definition that goes beyond the requirement that 2 the information fall within the Agency s mandate to conduct 3 foreign intelligence. 4 Id. at 169.13 Here, Plaintiffs argue that the provision of the NSA 5 requiring the Director of National Intelligence to ensure 6 compliance with the Constitution and laws of the United 7 States, see 50 U.S.C. § 403-1(f)(4), delimits the 8 Director s obligation under section 102A(i)(1) to protect 9 intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized 10 disclosure, see 50 U.S.C. § 403-1(i)(1), and the 11 concomitant rights under FOIA to decline to disclose. 12 statutory language does not, however, draw any such 13 limitation, and to do so by judicial device would flout 14 Sims s clear directive against constricting the CIA s broad 15 authority in this domain. 16 any limitation on the CIA s duty to protect information 17 beyond the requirement that the information fall within the 18 Agency s mandate to conduct foreign intelligence. 19 471 U.S. at 169. 20 either the statute s text or in the case law interpreting The Again, Sims expressly rejected Sims, Plaintiffs argument lacks support in 13 The statutory provision at issue in Sims was a materially identical precursor to section 102A(i)(1) of the NSA. See Sims, 471 U.S. at 167 68. 27 1 that text. 2 Moreover, we are wary of the practical difficulties 3 that would likely arise were the category of protectable 4 intelligence methods circumscribed as Plaintiffs propose. 5 In FOIA actions in which the government seeks to withhold 6 information related to an intelligence method, an 7 information officer and then the court would potentially be 8 forced to engage in a complex inquiry to determine whether 9 the government has sufficiently demonstrated the legality of 10 the method to justify withholding. In this respect, we 11 question how the court and the agency would handle varying 12 assessments of legality. 13 concerning a method that the President, on advice of 14 counsel, considers legal, but which is later declared 15 unlawful by a federal court or by a subsequent 16 administration? 17 be determined as of the time of the method s use or may a 18 forward-looking proscription also apply retroactively to 19 prevent reliance on an exemption? 20 before us helps illustrate the point. 21 that a President can render an intelligence method illegal 22 through the mere issuance of public statements, or, more What becomes of information Relatedly, is the legality of a method to 28 The matter currently Even if we assumed 1 formally, through adoption of an executive order, and if we 2 further assumed that President Obama s Executive Order 3 coupled with his statements describing waterboarding as 4 torture were sufficient in this regard, we would be left 5 with the difficult task of determining what retroactive 6 effect, if any, to assign that designation. 7 such an illegality inquiry is clearly beyond the scope and 8 purpose of FOIA. 9 In our view, See Wilner, 592 F.3d at 77. Finally, we also note that prior courts faced with 10 similar questions have declined to address the legality of 11 an intelligence method as part of a FOIA analysis. 12 v. U.S. Department of Defense, the District of Columbia 13 Circuit rejected the very argument raised by Plaintiffs 14 here: that an interrogation technique formerly authorized 15 for use on high-value detainees is no longer a protectable 16 intelligence method for FOIA purposes if the President 17 bans its future use. 18 that Sims says nothing suggesting that the change in the 19 specific techniques of intelligence gathering by the CIA 20 renders unprotected sources and methods previously used, 21 the court held that the President s prohibition of the 22 future use of certain interrogation techniques . . . does See 628 F.3d at 622. 29 In ACLU After noting 1 not diminish the government s otherwise valid authority to 2 . . . withhold [information] from disclosure under 3 exemptions 1 and 3. Id. 4 In Wilner v. NSA, our Court considered whether the 5 government could refuse to confirm or deny the existence of 6 records obtained under the since-discontinued Terrorist 7 Surveillance Program ( TSP ). 8 plaintiffs in Wilner claimed that the government had 9 illegally obtained information about them through the TSP. 592 F.3d at 64 65. The 10 They argued that the NSA improperly refused to disclose this 11 information because any such records would have been 12 obtained in violation of the U.S. Constitution. 13 In concluding that the government properly withheld the 14 information at issue under FOIA Exemption 3, we declined to 15 reach the legality of the underlying Terrorist Surveillance 16 Program, reasoning that this question was beyond the 17 scope of the plaintiffs FOIA action. 18 Id. at 77. Id. at 77. We recognize that the plaintiffs in Wilner did not make 19 the precise argument advanced here: that the statutory 20 meaning of intelligence methods precludes the government 21 from employing that label for a technique that the President 22 has declared to be unlawful and thus outside the CIA s 30 1 charter. 2 applicable here a judicial determination of the legality of 3 waterboarding is beyond the scope of this FOIA action. 4 the foregoing reasons, we reject Plaintiffs argument that 5 the Government could not withhold information relating to 6 waterboarding on the grounds that waterboarding is now 7 illegal and therefore beyond the CIA s mandate. 8 9 But in our view, Wilner s principle is equally For According substantial weight to the CIA s declarations, see Wolf, 473 F.3d at 374, we have no difficulty in 10 concluding that the records in question, which we have 11 reviewed in camera, relate to an intelligence method within 12 the meaning of the NSA, and, accordingly, may be withheld. 13 The parties agree that waterboarding was an interrogation 14 method used by the CIA in connection with its foreign 15 intelligence-gathering activities. 16 declarations are not contradicted by the record or 17 undermined by any allegations of bad faith,14 the Government 18 has sustained its burden of proving that the records 19 relating to the CIA s use of waterboarding are exempt from 14 Because the CIA s In addition, Director Panetta confirmed that the records were withheld not to suppress evidence of any unlawful conduct but rather to protect intelligence sources and methods. We accord a presumption of good faith to this declaration, Carney, 19 F.3d at 812. 31 1 disclosure under FOIA Exemption 3. 2 73, 76-77. 3 See Wilner, 592 F.3d at B. The Photograph of Abu Zubaydah 4 Plaintiffs contend that the CIA failed to provide any 5 justification for withholding a photograph of Abu Zubaydah 6 taken while he was in CIA custody abroad and that the post 7 hoc explanations offered by the Government s counsel do not 8 suffice to justify the withholding. 9 8, 2009 unclassified declaration, Director Panetta explained We disagree. In a June 10 that all of the records he reviewed in connection with his 11 invocation of FOIA Exemptions 1 and 3, including the 12 photograph, are related to the contents of 92 destroyed 13 videotapes of detainee interrogations that occurred between 14 April and December 2002. 15 Director Panetta further declared that miscellaneous 16 documents in the sample records, including the photograph, 17 contain[] TOP SECRET operational information concerning the 18 interrogations of Abu Zubaydah. 19 Government has expanded upon Director Panetta s 20 justification for withholding by explaining that the 21 photograph necessarily relates to an intelligence source 22 or method because it records Abu Zubaydah s condition in Panetta Decl. ¶ 3, June 8, 2009. 32 Id. ¶ 5. On appeal, the 1 2 the period during which he was interrogated. We have reviewed the photograph in camera. Our 3 examination has been informed by our contemporaneous review 4 of other sample records. 5 observe that a photograph depicting a person in CIA custody 6 discloses far more information than the person s identity. 7 We agree with the district court that the image at issue 8 here conveys an aspect of information that is important to 9 intelligence gathering, J.A. 1115, and that this Like the district court, we 10 information necessarily relates to an intelligence source 11 or method. 12 the photograph is thus both logical and plausible. 13 Wilner, 592 F.3d at 75. 14 declaration is entitled to substantial weight, see Wolf, 473 15 F.3d at 374, and this Court must adopt a deferential 16 posture in FOIA cases regarding the uniquely executive 17 purview of national security, Wilner, 592 F.3d at 76 18 (internal quotation marks omitted). 19 the district court s conclusion that the Government has 20 adequately justified its withholding of the photograph under 21 FOIA Exemption 3. The Government s justification for withholding See Moreover, Director Panetta s 22 33 Accordingly, we affirm CONCLUSION 1 2 For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district 3 court is hereby AFFIRMED in part and REVERSED in part. 4 affirm the judgment of the district court insofar as it 5 sustained the Government s withholding of records relating 6 to the CIA s use of waterboarding and the photograph of Abu 7 Zubaydah. 8 requires the Government either to disclose the classified 9 information in the OLC memoranda and the transcript of the We We reverse that part of the judgment that 10 district court s ex parte, in camera proceeding, or to 11 substitute language proposed by the district court. 34