Department of Justice v. Landano, 508 U.S. 165 (1993)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the third circuit

No. 91-2054. Argued February 24, 1993—Decided May 24, 1993

Respondent Landano was convicted in New Jersey state court for murdering a police officer during what may have been a gang-related robbery. In an effort to support his claim in subsequent state-court proceedings that the prosecution violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83, by withholding material exculpatory evidence, he filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for information it had compiled in connection with the murder investigation. When the FBI redacted some documents and withheld others, Landano filed this action in the Federal District Court, seeking disclosure of the requested files' contents. The FBI claimed that it withheld the information under Exemption 7(D), which exempts agency records compiled for law enforcement purposes by law enforcement authorities in the course of a criminal investigation if the records' release "could reasonably be expected to disclose" the identity of, or information provided by, a "confidential source." The court held that the FBI had to articulate case-specific reasons for nondisclosure of information given by anyone other than a regular informant, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in relevant part. It held that a source is confidential if there has been an explicit assurance of confidentiality or circumstances from which such an assurance could reasonably be inferred. However, it rejected the Government's argument that a presumption of confidentiality arises whenever any individual or institutional source supplies information to the FBI during a criminal investigation and declined to rule that a presumption may be based on the particular investigation's subject matter. Rather, it held that, to justify withholding under Exemption 7(D), the Government had to provide detailed explanations relating to each alleged confidential source.

Held: 1. The Government is not entitled to a presumption that all sources supplying information to the FBI in the course of a criminal investigation are confidential sources within the meaning of Exemption 7(D). Pp. 171-178. (a) A source should be deemed "confidential" if the source furnished information with the understanding that the FBI would not divulge the


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