Shem-Tov v. Department of Justice

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA LORI SHEM-TOV, Plaintiff, v. Civil Action No. 17-2452 (RDM) DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants. MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Plaintiff Lori Shem-Tov, who is currently being criminally prosecuted in Israel, filed this Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) action against Defendants the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“Justice Department”), the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and INTERPOL Washington (“Interpol Washington” or “USNCB”). Dkt. 1. She seeks the release of records of Defendants’ communications with the Israeli government regarding the requests of Israeli law enforcement for assistance from the United States under the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (“MLAT”) between the United States and Israel. Dkt. 1-4 at 2–3. She also seeks records of Defendants’ efforts to secure information pertaining to several blogs from Automattic, Inc. Id. Defendants DHS and Interpol Washington now move for summary judgment, asserting that they have completed reasonable searches for records responsive to Plaintiff’s requests and have either released the responsive documents or withheld them in whole or in part in accordance with various FOIA exemptions. Dkt. 34. The Court has also construed Plaintiff’s opposition to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment as her own cross-motion for summary judgment as to those two Defendants. Dkt. 41; Minute Order (Aug. 9, 2019) (treating Plaintiff’s opposition to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment as a cross-motion for summary judgment). The Justice Department, however, remains engaged in searching for and producing responsive records, see Dkt. 59, and therefore does not participate in the instant motion. For the most part, Plaintiff does not take issue with the methodologies of the searches Defendants performed but, instead, confuses the completed searches conducted by DHS and Interpol Washington with the search still being conducted by the Justice Department and then faults the Justice Department’s (not yet completed) search. She also argues that, as a criminal defendant in the Israeli case, she is entitled to all relevant documents in the possession of all Defendants under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The Court concludes that DHS and Interpol Washington have carried their burdens of establishing that they performed adequate searches for documents responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA requests and have demonstrated that some of their withholdings were proper under the FOIA exemptions. The have failed, however, to satisfy their summary judgment burden of demonstrating that their withholdings of information pursuant to Exemption 7(D) were appropriate. Accordingly, the Court will GRANT in part and DENY in part Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, Dkt. 34; and will DENY Plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment, Dkt. 41. I. BACKGROUND Plaintiff attests that she is a “journalist specializing in welfare stories since 2009.” Dkt. 41-1 at 1 (Shem-Tov Decl. ¶ 2). She states that she was “arrested in Israel on charges of ‘insulting public officials’” in February 2017, id. (Shem-Tov Decl. ¶ 3), and asserts that the Israeli government has improperly handled her case in numerous ways, including subjecting her to a “political arrest” that was “intended ...

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