Schwartz v. DEA

September 29, 2016

Reporter Mattathias Schwatz filed a FOIA lawsuit challenging the DEA's refusal to release a video of a May 2012 DEA-led raid in Honduras that involved the use of deadly force against civilians. The government maintained the video fell within the scope of Exemption 7(E), which protects law enforcement techniques and procedures. After an in-camera review of the video and several declarations, the district court held that the video was not exempt and ordered it released. The DEA appealed the ruling to the Second Circuit. RCFP's amicus brief, joined by a coalition of 23 media organizations, argued (1) Congress intended for courts to conduct meaningful, independent review of agency exemption claims under FOIA, and to use in camera review as a tool to aid in the de novo evaluation of the propriety of agency withholdings; (2) the District Court’s thorough review of the DEA’s exemption claim in the case was consistent with Congressional intent; and (3) the value of de novo and in camera review by the courts is particularly important in FOIA cases involving the assertion of Exemption 7(E).