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FIA-12-0071 - In the Matter of Martha J. McNeely

On November 29, 2012, the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) issued a decision denying an appeal (Appeal) from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) determinations issued by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Richland Operations Office (ROO) and the DOE’s Oak Ridge Office (ORO). Ms. Martha J. McNeely, the Appellant, sought her medical and radiation exposure records from the period 1947 through 1953 while she was a child living at the now-DOE Hanford facility.  In her Request, the Appellant suggested several locations at ROO where responsive records might exist. Additionally, the Appellant, in her Request, suggested that responsive records might exist at ORO and consequently, ROO forwarded the Appellant’s Request to ORO. ROO issued a determination regarding the Individual’s request in which it provided several documents. One of the documents, an X-Ray medical procedure list had the names of individuals, other than the Appellant’s, redacted pursuant to Exemption 6. ROO issued a determination letter to the Appellant in which it stated that it could not locate any records responsive to her Request.

The Appellant challenged the propriety of ROO’s Exemption 6 withholdings and argued that both Offices had failed to make an adequate search for documents. Upon obtaining details as to the search that ROO and ORO made, OHA determined that each office had made a search reasonably calculated to uncover responsive documents by using the identifying information provided by the Appellant and searching all facilities most likely to contain responsive documents. Consequently, the searches for responsive documents conducted by ROO and ORO were adequate under the FOIA. With regard to ROO’s Exemption 6 withholdings, OHA found that there was little public interest in the release of the individual’s names and that the individuals had a significant privacy interest regarding their medical records. Consequently, OHA found that release of the names contained in the X-Ray medical procedure list would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and that ROO properly withheld the individual names on the X-Ray medical procedure list pursuant to Exemption 6. Given its findings, OHA denied the Appellant’s Appeal.