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Doe v. Federal Bureau of Investigation

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 22, 2019

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 14) to which Plaintiff has responded. ECF No. 17. The Court now rules because no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         John Doe proceeds pro se and pseudonymously against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and its Director, Christopher Wray, because he has “been tortured into repeated nervous breakdowns” and “almost certainly would not proceed in this matter without the pseudonymous status.” ECF No. 3 at 1. Doe claims that Defendants have violated the Administrative Procedure Act (Count I), violated the First, Second, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution (Count II), and committed treason (Count IV).[1] Doe seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, to include mandated “disclosure of all governmental personnel and contractors, ” and ordering Defendants to cease their “active measures” against him. ECF No. 1 at 10.

         Although the Complaint is dense, fugue-like, and at times inscrutable, the heart of Doe's claims is the FBI's supposed tampering with his FBI identification record. Doe asserts that he had worked as a federal contractor within a civilian division of the Directorate of National Intelligence (“DNI”) at some point in the past. ECF No. 1 ¶ 7. While at DNI, Doe claims to have been investigated for leaking online unclassified information and subjected to “over a decade of stalking and harassment both online and offline” by the FBI, other unspecified governmental agencies, and their federal contractors. Doe also asserts that the FBI has placed him on a “terrorist watch list, ” engaged in “persistent sabotages” of Doe's email, induced his sleep deprivation and “surreptitious druggings, ” and interfered with Doe's future employment. Id. ¶¶ 8-20. The FBI, Doe asserts, also concocted “a contrived incident attempting to produce sexual contact with a minor” to cause him to be imprisoned abroad, and caused his printer “to spew cyan toner over anything he prints, ” interfering with his capacity to communicate regarding such actions. Id. at 4 n.4, n.5. Notably, Doe fails to allege any specific dates, times, or locations related to, or individuals involved in, the events forming the basis of his Complaint. In short, the “who, what, when, and where” of the Complaint are missing.

         Defendants move to dismiss on various grounds. With regard to the claims based on the FBI's alleged tampering with his records, Defendants assert such claims are controlled by the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because Doe has failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing suit. Defendants further assert that the Complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Court addresses each argument in turn.


         Standard of Review

         When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations are accepted as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “However, conclusory statements or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not [suffice].'” EEOC v. Performance Food Grp., Inc., 16 F.Supp.3d 584, 588 (D. Md. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above a speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “‘[N]aked assertions' of wrongdoing necessitate some ‘factual enhancement' within the complaint to cross ‘the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         Although pro se pleadings are construed liberally to allow for the development of a potentially meritorious case, Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980), a court cannot ignore a clear failure to allege facts setting forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (“The ‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view such pro se complaints does not transform the court into an advocate. Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed.”) (internal citation omitted)). See also Bell v. Bank of Am., N.A., No. RDB-13-0478, 2013 WL 6528966, at *1 (D. Md. Dec. 11, 2013) (“[A] pro se plaintiff is general[ly] given more leeway than a party represented by counsel, ” however “a district court is not obligated to ferret through . . . a complaint that is so confused, ambiguous, vague or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised.”). “[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         III. Analysis

         A. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         To the extent Doe's allegations arise from Defendants' supposed tampering with his FBI identification record, Defendants maintain that dismissal is warranted for Doe's failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. The Court agrees.

         An FBI identification record, commonly known as a “rap sheet, ” is a compilation of information gathered in response to fingerprint submissions submitted by other agencies in connection with arrests. 28 C.F.R. § 16.31. Under the Privacy Act, an individual may request access to such records or any information pertaining to the individual and maintained by an agency. 5 U.S.C. § 552a(d)(1). The individual may challenge the information included in the FBI identification record by applying “directly to the agency which contributed the questioned information, ” or ask the FBI to forward the challenge to the contributing entity. 28 C.F.R. § 16.34. The contributing agency then has ten working days to notify the requester of its decision. 5 U.S.C. § 552a(d)(2). If the individual disagrees with the agency's decision, he may seek agency review. Id. § 552a(d)(3). The agency then has thirty days to “complete such review and make a final determination.” Id. Only after such final ...

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