D.S.C.: Govt met its burden to keep SW papers sealed for a while longer

The government’s motion to seal for the time being the search warrant papers is granted. It could jeopardize an ongoing investigation, and alternative measures are inadequate at this point. In re United States, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 249503 (D.S.C. Dec. 16, 2021, filed Jan. 5, 2022):

This matter comes before the Court on motion of the United States to file the affidavit in support of the search warrant, attachments, and the return of the warrant, thereto under seal. The purpose of the Government’s request is to protect the information contained within these documents as release of the information would jeopardize an ongoing investigation, reveal sensitive information about the nature and scope of the investigation, disclose the identity of cooperating sources and potential witnesses, and could result in the destruction of evidence or flight from prosecution.

Having conducted an independent review of the facts set forth in the affidavit in support of the search warrant as well as the reasons provided by the Government in its sealing motion, the Court concludes that the Government’s significant countervailing interest in sealing outweighs the common-law public interest in access to such documents and that sealing the affidavit and attachments is “essential to preserve higher values.” See Media Gen. Operations, Inc. v. Buchanan, 417 F.3d 424, 429-31 (4th Cir. 2005). The Court further concludes that, by sealing only the affidavit in support of the search warrant and attachments thereto and providing public access to the search warrant, the application in support of the search warrant, the motion to seal and this sealing order, the denial of access is narrowly tailored to serve the government’s interests in sealing. Id. at 429.

In reaching this conclusion, the Court has considered alternative measures less restrictive than sealing—such as redaction of portions of the document—but finds that, at this juncture, redaction would not protect the Government’s compelling interests and un-redacted portions would largely be limited to information available in the warrant and application. [Gunn] ….

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