TJOFLAT, Circuit Judge:
Bill B. Moorefield, twice convicted for threatening the life of the President of the United States, brought this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (1976), suit to gain access to the file maintained on him by the United States Secret Service (Service). The district court ruled that the entire Moorefield file was exempt from disclosure because of one or more of the FOIA exceptions provided in 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). We affirm.
Moorefield initially asked to see his Secret Service file, but the Service refused his request, citing seven FOIA exemptions
On appeal, Moorefield argues that exemption 7(A), 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A), is inapplicable in this case, and that, while parts of his record may be withheld under some of the other cited exemptions, further proceedings are necessary before that determination may be made. As Moorefield correctly observes, in FOIA suits there is a presumption of disclosure that the Government has the burden of rebutting, and unless requested material falls into one of the specific statutory exemptions, it must be made available on demand to any member of the general public.
As a general proposition, an agency opposing disclosure must address its objections to specific documents or specific parts of documents. See, e. g., Vaughn v. Rosen, 157 U.S.App.D.C. 340, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C.Cir.1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 977, 94 S.Ct. 1564, 39 L.Ed.2d 873 (1974). In this case, however, the Service made a blanket objection to disclosure, claiming that every item in the Moorefield file was subject to at least one of seven section 552(b) exemptions. The Service did not indicate, as to any of the items, which exemptions applied. In its order granting summary judgment the district court similarly failed to indicate how the exemptions applied; it merely held:
Record at 178. Ordinarily, such a holding would be insufficient, and we would remand for further proceedings. On remand, the Service would have the obligation of establishing, with the specificity necessary to permit proper appellate review, how a given exemption foreclosed complete or partial disclosure of each document in the Moorefield file. Without such a showing, our review would be limited to an unguided rereading of the disputed documents; in short, we would need to speculate whether they were exempt from disclosure. When exemption 7(A) is invoked, however, it is possible for us to assess the propriety of nondisclosure without a trial court's finding on each document claimed to be exempt.
The documents in the Moorefield file are plainly "investigatory records" prepared for "law enforcement purposes." See 2 B. Mezines, J. Stein & J. Gruff, Administrative Law § 10.08, at 10-199 (1979). They include background and other matters specifically relevant to Moorefield, and were prepared to help the Service fulfill its duty under 18 U.S.C. § 3056 (1976)—ensuring the lives and safety of the President, members of his family, and certain other persons.
"Enforcement proceedings" are defined in neither section 7(A) nor its legislative history, see, e. g., J. O'Reilly, Federal Information Disclosure § 17.07, at 17-20.1, n. 1 (1978), and we have found no definitive case law interpretation of it. While there are expressions which indicate that such "proceedings" might exist only if an adjudicatory process is pending, see, e. g., Pacific Molasses Co. v. NLRB, 577 F.2d 1172, 1184 & n. 9 (5th Cir. 1978), we do not view them as dispositive. Moorefield argues that no enforcement proceeding exists here because he is not suspected of criminal activity within the Service's jurisdiction. Instead, he is of interest to the Service because his prior history of making threats against the President makes him an ongoing danger to a protectee of the Service. Records of such an investigation could never meet the 7(A) exemption, in Moorefield's view, because he equates "enforcement proceedings" with "judicial proceedings." Since no judicial proceeding is contemplated at this stage of his investigation, he argues, there is no enforcement proceeding to be interfered with. We do not agree.
Most law enforcement investigations commence because someone believes that the law has been violated. The purpose of the investigation is to gather the information necessary to enforce the law through a judicial proceeding, such as a criminal prosecution, or an administrative hearing. Since this is the goal of the investigation, it seems reasonable to equate "enforcement proceeding" with an adjudicatory procedure. As Robbins Tire discloses, exemption 7(A) was enacted in 1974 mainly to overrule judicial decisions that prohibited disclosure of investigatory files in "closed" cases. 437 U.S. at 226, 98 S.Ct. at 2319-23. Under exemption 7(A), courts were to cease automatically excluding from disclosure anything
In discharging its responsibility to protect the President, the Secret Service does not conduct its routine investigations with a view towards apprehending law-breakers and bringing them to justice. Thus, if the Service has succeeded in its prophylactic mission, it should never appear in an adjudicatory proceeding to prosecute the assailant of a President, or any of its other protectees. Its job is to prevent an attack from ever being made. In the views of Senator Hart, who introduced the 1974 exemption amendment (including section 7(A)), "enforcement proceedings" correspond with "law enforcement purposes," and such purposes include the prevention as well as the detection and punishment of violations of the law. 1974 Attorney General's Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Amendments at 6-7 (1975) (1974 Attorney General's Memorandum). Notwithstanding that Service investigations are not directed toward trials or hearings, they are certainly directed toward an active and concrete effort to enforce the law—in fact, nothing could be more "active and concrete" than activities that are part of the security apparatus that surrounds the President of the United States.
As the Deputy Director of the Service stated in his affidavit in this case,
Record at 65. Obviously, the "purpose and point" of the Service's investigation has not expired. Now that Moorefield has served his term and is at liberty,
The Court in Robbins Tire found that when Congress enacted the 1974 amendments, it did not wish to alter or undercut the existing FOIA exemptions, 437 U.S. at 233-234, 98 S.Ct. at 2322-23. Congress
The remaining question is whether an FOIA disclosure of the Moorefield file would "interfere" with an enforcement proceeding. We conclude that it would. The materials in this file are sensitive; all constitute investigative matter that assists the Service in its efforts to keep track of Moorefield and preclude his harming a Service protectee. As the Service affidavit pointed out, disclosure of these materials could tend generally to inform targets of Service investigations of the means the Service employs to keep abreast of them, and, specifically, to enable Moorefield to elude the scrutiny of the Service, with potentially disastrous results. In our view, disclosure here would constitute an interference much like the one found by the Court in Robbins Tire, where it concluded that, on balance, disclosure of the NLRB witness statements would upset the conduct of enforcement proceedings. 437 U.S. at 236-242, 98 S.Ct. at 2324-27. The risk of presidential assassination presented by the forced disclosure of the sort of Service records involved here is at least as great as that of the mere witness intimidation considered in Robbins Tire. See id. at 239-241, 98 S.Ct. at 2325-26; 1974 Attorney General's Memorandum at 8.
In summary, we hold here that the records of ongoing, active Secret Service investigations, carried out pursuant to the Service's protective function, may be exempted from FOIA disclosure under section 7(A) without the individualized scrutiny normally given purportedly exempt documents; that such investigations are enforcement proceedings; and that disclosure of the type of records contained in such an investigative file would interfere with such proceedings. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.