Exemption 2

Exemption 2 permits an agency to withhold from mandatory disclosure records “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.”1 The exact scope of what is covered under Exemption 2 was the subject of much legal debate after a controversial appeals court decision from 1981 that recognized an expansive reading of Exemption 2.2This court’s interpretation, which recognized what was referred to as the “High 2” exemption, was ultimately rejected in 2011 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Milner v. Department of Navy.3

For background purposes, a brief explanation of the “High 2/Low 2” distinction follows. However, after the Milner decision, the “Low 2” exemption is all that remains of Exemption 2 and hence is the focus of this section. Agencies can no longer cite a “High 2” interpretation of Exemption 2 to withhold a record.

1 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(2).

2 Crooker v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, 670 F.2d 1051, 1065 (D.C. Cir. 1981), abrogated by Milner v. Dep’t of Navy, 131 S.Ct. 1259 (2011).

3 Milner, 131 S. Ct. at 1264.