Appeals Court Tells ICE Its Counterintuitive Tracking System Doesn’t Justify Jerking Around FOIA Requesters

from the cease-currently being-intentionally-obtuse dept

U.S. Immigration and Custom made Enforcement (ICE), like practically each individual govt company, doesn’t care substantially for FOIA requests or requesters. It commonly normally takes a lawsuit to power the agency to comply with its FOIA obligations. And its working day-to-working day managing of FOIA requests is so uninspired, it couldn’t even come up with a purpose to deny Mike Masnick’s charge waiver request.

Based on my evaluation of your March 4, 2014 letter and for the good reasons mentioned herein, I have decided that your rate waiver request is deficient for the reason that .

It will have to be (somewhat) much more responsive now. The Second Circuit Appeals Court has reversed a rather horrible conclusion by the lessen courtroom in an FOIA lawsuit brought by the ACLU. The Appeals Court docket conclusion [PDF] opens up with the court’s attempt to explain ICE’s needlessly-convoluted incident monitoring technique.

ICE’s Enforcement Integrated Database (“EID”) is the agency’s “common database repository for all data established, updated, and accessed by a range of computer software purposes.“ EID enables ICE officers, together with other regulation-enforcement components of the Department of Homeland Stability, “to deal with conditions from the time of an alien’s arrest, in-processing, or placement into elimination proceedings, via the last situation disposition.” EID, nonetheless, does not store details on a man or woman-centric foundation somewhat, it retailers facts in an celebration-centric fashion. Consequently, when a unique enforcement occasion takes place, ICE officers enter it into EID where it is stored with info recording similar functions relatively than with information pertaining to the similar alien.

That’s a strange way of handling things, especially if ICE is fascinated in tracking folks, rather than just incidents. And it is intrigued in monitoring people today. It just does the complete matter backwards. Immigration attorneys and advocates also require this facts to help their consumers — anything that is often only out there through FOIA ask for. That probably explains why ICE catalogs facts this way. It doesn’t cease ICE from tracking immigrants across the database, as the court notes:

Yet, ICE program does allow the company to retrieve EID facts on a human being-centric foundation. Precisely, with an acceptable identifier—here the alien’s A-Number—ICE can lookup on an ad hoc foundation for all activities pertaining to that distinct alien.

It does, however, make it very challenging for outsiders to do the exact thing, substantially considerably less gather all data relevant to their consumers. The ACLU sought records from quite a few incident categories and asked ICE to, basically, make the documents sortable by individual, alternatively than by incident kind. ICE ultimately handed around the records, but redacted the A-Figures, generating the spreadsheets wholly ineffective to the ACLU.

ICE did this irrespective of the ACLU asking that ICE replace A-Numbers with exceptional ID figures, realizing that ICE viewed as A-Numbers exempt from FOIA requests. ICE refused to execute this very simple activity, rather changing the A-Numbers with FOIA exemption codes.

ICE responded to the ACLU’s lawsuit by declaring (1) it was not obligated to do this, and (2) it couldn’t do this.

In its motion for summary judgment, ICE conceded that an A-Amount is “[t]he only piece of information and facts stored in a row of IIDS knowledge that connects an entry to an specific uniquely.” Notwithstanding, ICE submitted that, for the reason that A-Figures are exempt as PII, and due to the fact the substitution of these types of quantities with Exclusive IDs would involve the generation of new records—an obligation not imposed by FOIA—ICE’s production to ACLU with no One of a kind IDs had happy its FOIA obligations. Additional, ICE professed not to have a personal computer method by which it could develop man or woman-centric reports of digital data, “i.e., with each row corresponding to an unique and displaying that individual’s removals, detentions, and so forth.”

LOL. ICE is mainly professing it does not have a spreadsheet plan, regardless of handing the ACLU quite a few spreadsheets in response to its FOIA ask for.

The Appeals Court docket claims this is clearly absurd. Any identifying amount could be applied to allow monitoring of immigrants across several incident groups. Given that ICE claims its A-Figures are personally identifiable details, it could swap that out with any other reliable identifier that would be non-exempt. Because this does not adjust anything at all about the requested data, it is not the generation of new data.

Furnishing deliberately useless details to FOIA requesters won’t fly possibly.

[W]e conclude that ICE might not rely on A-Numbers’ exemption from FOIA disclosure to deny the community equivalent obtain to non-exempt documents. Alternatively, ICE have to find an alternative usually means to provide ACLU with responsive man or woman-centric entry to non-exempt records.

In fact, to maintain if not could have the perverse influence of encouraging agencies to make exempt records the singular suggests for gaining accessibility to non-exempt documents responsive to a unique question and, thereby, properly to conceal these information from the general public, at minimum in the way responsive to the query. Such an result is contrary to the “clear legislative intent” fundamental FOIA

The alternative is one particular the ACLU proposed. ICE simply cannot carry on to be this obtuse.

A bodily analogy could be useful. If an company had been to manage non-exempt, person-centric documents in a vault, the lock of which could be opened only with a mix of exempt quantities, the agency could not decline to make files from the vault by invoking the exemption afforded to the lock blend. Alternatively, FOIA would oblige the agency to open the vault itself and create the responsive information. Or, the company would have to change the blend to non-exempt numbers and therefore find the money for public access. So in this article, ICE must alone use A-Numbers to produce a spreadsheet of man or woman-centric details for ACLU, see infra at 38-39, or, as ACLU in this article requests, ICE have to modify the “lock” mix quantities so that ACLU can by itself obtain data in a person-centric way.

ICE loses. It will have to be actually responsive to ACLU’s ask for, alternatively than just handing it a bunch of facts when withholding the a single thing that might make that facts handy.

Submitted Below: 2nd circuit, dhs, foia, ice, transparency

Businesses: aclu

Luis Robinson

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