Avila v. United States Department of State

2022 WL 2104483 (2022)

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Avila v. United States Department of State

United States District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit
2022 WL 2104483 (2022)

Facts

United States (US) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Victor Avila Jr. (plaintiff) was ambushed by members of a drug cartel during an assignment to Mexico. Avila was seriously wounded, and another ICE agent was killed. Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Avila and nonprofit Judicial Watch, Inc. (plaintiff) submitted a request to the US Department of State (defendant) for records concerning Avila and the attack. Following a period of noncommunication from the State Department, Avila and Judicial Watch brought suit in the District of Columbia Circuit. In response, the State Department, in consultation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency, began searching for documents. Of the 138 documents located, some were released in full, others in part, and some were fully withheld. In affidavits concerning the withheld information, the State Department claimed the FOIA exemption for national security. More specifically, the justifications included the need to protect against damage to US-Mexico relations and to minimize the risk of harm to US personnel. However, for at least two of the documents, the State Department provided no more than a blanket reference to secrecy. Both sides moved for summary judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Contreras, J.)

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