In 2017, the Chicago Sun-Times submitted a FOIA request to the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Police Department seeking surveillance footage of an assailant charged with attempted murder for pushing a CTA customer onto the tracks at a subway station. Both public bodies denied the FOIA request, arguing that the security video was exempt under FOIA section 7(1)(v), which exempts the following from disclosure:
security measures *** that are designed to identify, prevent, or respond to potential attacks upon a community’s population or systems, facilities, or installations, the destruction or contamination of which would constitute a clear and present danger to the health or safety of the community, but only to the extent that disclosure could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the effectiveness of the measures. 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(v).
The Sun-Times sued the CTA and CPD, alleging that the footage was improperly withheld under FOIA. The trial court ruled in favor of the requester and ordered both public bodies to produce the footage.
On appeal, the Appellate Court ruled in favor of the CTA and CPD, finding the video footage to be exempt under FOIA. Chicago Sun-Times v. Chicago Transit Authority. The Appellate Court held that Section 7(1)(v) of FOIA only requires a public body to demonstrate that releasing a particular record could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the effectiveness of its security measures—not that it would jeopardize them. The CTA had submitted an affidavit of its homeland security expert that the footage contained security information that was not currently public, including video quality, resolution, field of view, and blind spots of the CTA’s surveillance cameras. The CTA argued that people could use this information to evade security measures when targeting passengers, planning attacks, or evading capture by law enforcement. As a result, the Appellate Court found that CTA sufficiently proved that disclosing the surveillance camera footage from the rail platform could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the effectiveness of its security measures, so the footage was therefore exempt.
The Appellate Court also rejected the Sun-Times’ argument that there was no evidence that a mass transit system’s video surveillance ever prevented any terrorist plot or any kind of assault or attack, finding that the CTA only had to prove that the security footage was designed to identify, prevent or respond to “potential attacks,” not actual attacks.
Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink