Lucaj v. FBI, No. 16-1381 (6th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
This case arose from an FBI investigation into plaintiff and his involvement in attacks made by an ethnic Albanian group against facilities in Montenegro. Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(5), seeking information regarding the investigation. The FBI subsequently claimed that it had fully discharged its disclosure obligations and argued that the common interest doctrine shielded the requests for assistance (RFAs) from disclosure. The FBI's invocation of the common-interest doctrine convinced the district court that the requests to Austria and to an unnamed government were exempt under section 552(b)(5). Therefore, the district court granted the FBI's motion for summary judgment. At issue was the exemption of disclosure of inter-agency and intra-agency memorandums or letters (Exemption 5) under FOIA. The FBI and the DOJ argued that "inter-agency" and "intra-agency" included agencies of other countries. The court held that the plain language of section 552(b)(5) was limited to memorandums or letters between authorities of the Government of the United States. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.