Threshold Requirements for the FBI Under Exemption 7 of the Freedom of Information Act

This Note examines Exemption 7 of the FOIA as it relates to FBP0 information and seeks to determine the appropriate rule for the first prong of the Abramson test. Part I of this Note examines Exemption 7 in the 1966, 1974, and 1986 FOIAs, the judicial opinions interpreting this exemption, and the legislative histories of the 1966, 1974, and 1986 FOIAs as they relate to Exemption 7. Part II compares the per se and threshold tests in view of their practical effects and concludes that neither test is clearly superior. Part III proposes adoption of a per se rule with significant procedural changes. This modified per se rule provides that all “records or information” of the FBI are presumed “compiled for law enforcement purposes” under Exemption 7. However, when the requestor can show a “reasonable likelihood under the circumstances” that the investigation was for political or other improper purposes or was carried out by improper means, the court must examine the requested documents in camera to insure, if possible, that the political or other improper purpose or the use of improper means is disclosed.