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FIA-12-0062 - In the Matter of Judicial Watch

On November 8, 2012, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) granted in part and denied in all other respects a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Appeal filed by Judicial Watch (Appellant) of a determination issued by the Office of Information Resources (OIR).  The Appellant challenged the adequacy of DOE’s search and the withholdings under Exemptions 5 and 6 of the FOIA.  As an initial matter, OHA determined that the search at DOE was not yet complete, as the Office of Policy and International Affairs had not yet responded to the request.  Next, OHA found that ten of the documents from which information had been redacted were not available in unredacted form.  Therefore, OHA could not rule on whether the withholdings were appropriate or not.  OHA sent the matter back to OIR to find unredacted copies of those documents.  OHA determined that information withheld under Exemption 5 was protected by the deliberative process privilege.  Further, there was no factual information that could be segregated from the information withheld and release of the information would not be in the public interest.  Finally, OHA determined that the personal email addresses were properly withheld were Exemption 6, but the conference call telephone numbers should have been released.  The telephone numbers do not belong to a person, and therefore, there is not privacy interest in them.  OHA granted the Appeal in part and denied it in all other respects.