EPA v. Mink
410 U.S. 73 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

EPA v. Mink, 410 U.S. 73 (1973)

Environmental Protection Agency v. Mink

No. 71-909

Argued November 9, 1972

Decided January 22, 1973

410 U.S. 73


Respondent Members of Congress brought suit under the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 to compel disclosure of nine documents that various officials had prepared for the President concerning a scheduled underground nuclear test. All but three were classified as Top Secret or Secret under E.O. 10501, and petitioners represented that all were inter-agency or intra-agency documents used in the Executive Branch's decisionmaking processes. The District Court granted petitioners' motion for summary judgment on the grounds that each of the documents was exempt from compelled disclosure by 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1) (hereafter Exemption 1), excluding matters "specifically required by Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of the national defense or foreign policy," and § 552(b)(5) (hereafter Exemption 5), excluding "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party . . . in litigation with the agency." The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding (a) that Exemption 1 permits nondisclosure of only the secret portions of classified documents but requires disclosure of the nonsecret components if separable, and (b) that Exemption 5 shields only governmental "decisional processes" and not factual information unless "inextricably intertwined with policymaking processes." The District Court was ordered to examine the documents in camera to determine both aspects of separability.


1. Exemption 1 does not permit compelled disclosure of the six classified documents or in camera inspection to sift out "non-secret components," and petitioners met their burden of demonstrating that the documents were entitled to protection under that exemption. Pp. 410 U. S. 79-84.

2. Exemption 5 does not require that otherwise confidential documents be made available for a district court's in camera inspection regardless of how little, if any, purely factual material they contain. In implying that such inspection be automatic, the Court of Appeals order was overly rigid, and petitioners should be afforded the opportunity of demonstrating by means short of

Page 410 U. S. 74

in camera inspection that the documents sought are clearly beyond the range of material that would be available to a private part in litigation with a Government agency. Pp. 410 U. S. 85-94.

150 U.S. App. D.C. 233, 464 F.2d 742, reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 410 U. S. 94. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 410 U. S. 95. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 410 U. S. 105. REHNQUIST, J., tool no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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