Post details: Transparency Not A Priority In The Department of Homeland Security

2008-10-23

Permalink 23:40:52, Categories: News, Homeland Security?, Checkpoints, 513 words   English (EU)

Transparency Not A Priority In The Department of Homeland Security

Approximately two months after the Department of Homeland Security setup a suspicionless internal checkpoint near mile post 146 along State Route 86 in Southern Arizona, I submitted a FOIA or Freedom of Information Act request to U.S. Customs & Border Protection's Washington, D.C. office. The specific information I'm seeking includes:

  • A copy of the Border Patrol's field manual for operating internal suspicionless checkpoints
  • A copy of the Border Patrol study used to justify establishing a checkpoint along SR86 in Southern Arizona near mile marker 146
  • A copy of checkpoint summary reports regarding seizures at the checkpoint since its inception in early 2008
  • A copy of "Immigration Law", a DOJ publication related to immigration case law

[More:]

The Freedom of Information Act is a federal law that, in theory, requires executive branch agencies to provide individuals access to public records under the agency's control with few exceptions. If the agency fails or refuses to provide access to the requested documentation within a reasonable time frame, the law creates a legal cause of action against the agency.

The reality however is quite different. Executive branch agencies routinely drag their feet for months, if not years, regarding FOIA requests. Sometimes requests are ignored outright. Additionally, there is little recourse in the courts given that judges rarely, if ever, impose sanctions on federal agencies for failing to obey the law. Take for instance this article I wrote for Freedom's Phoenix several years back regarding a few of my earlier FOIA experiences.

With regards to my most recent FOIA request, it took the agency over 5 1/2 months merely to acknowledge receipt. The August 29th response from Customs & Border Protection stated my request had been received but the documentation requested was still being compiled and would have to be vetted before final release. Additionally, the agency denied me access to one document that originated in the Department of Justice. The Homeland Security agency indicated I needed to contact the DOJ directly and request the document from them.

Legally, an agency is required to respond to a FOIA request within 20 days of receipt. That means Customs & Border Protection is already over 210 days out of compliance with the law. If history is any guide however, Customs & Border Protection will take well over a year to fill this information request if it bothers to fill it at all.

Given that Americans are being routinely seized and searched by armed federal agents absent suspicion at internal checkpoints, it's not unreasonable to expect DHS to comply with the law and release public information regarding such checkpoints. Unfortunately, transparency and accountability don't appear to be high priorities for Homeland Security these days:

Shushing Homeland

Security is one thing, but how about this from the Department of Homeland Security? The agency has instructed employees to ignore, in some cases, court orders to disclose information. The agency says that an employee who gets a court order should seek a delay. And if he or she is unsuccessful and the court persists, the employee "shall respectfully decline to comply with the demand."

- U.S. News & World Report

Comments:

Comment from: Stephen Waits [Visitor] · http://swaits.com
Are you working with the ACLU at all?
Permalink 2008-10-24 @ 09:34
Comment from: Chris [Visitor]
I've had the same experience. Over 1 year ago I filed a FOIA with TSA requesting my flyer record. The first filing was ignored without even an acknowledgement of it's receipt. The second got a letter after 4 months stating basically that they would eventually get to it.

So the police state can seize Americans within our own borders (as has been show, against their very own rules and court rulings) yet they cannot follow any piece of the FOIA law? When we allow agencies within the government (executive branch, TSA, DHS) to selectively obey the very laws drafted to protect our citizenry against tyranny, we are in big trouble.
Permalink 2008-10-25 @ 10:56
Comment from: Checkpoint USA [Member]
"Are you working with the ACLU at all?"

No I'm not although ACLU members have contacted me from time to time to share their experiences at internal suspicionless Homeland Security checkpoints.
Permalink 2008-10-26 @ 14:17
Comment from: Charlie [Visitor]
Could you please do a blog on how to file a FOI? I was at the September 20th Checkpoint Protest in Port Angeles, Wa, and the BP was videotaping and taking our photographs. I'd like to get copies of those. I was video taping them also. BTW I'm originally from Arizona myself. ;)
Permalink 2008-10-28 @ 07:44
Comment from: Marvin K. [Visitor]
Comment from: Chris Over 1 year ago I filed a FOIA with TSA requesting my flyer record. The first filing was ignored without even an acknowledgement of it's receipt. The second got a letter after 4 months stating basically that they would eventually get to it.


Same exact experience for me. They ignored my first request entirely. Only when I mailed my request with Delivery Confirmation did I get a response 1 month later saying they received my request and would get back to me ASAP. Four months later, I'm still waiting...

This display of inattention does not exactly fill me with confidence that the DHS can handle routine paperwork, let alone guard our security.
Permalink 2008-11-10 @ 07:27
Comment from: Harry Peck [Visitor] · http://none
I have had similar experience with FOIA and the BP. I leave near Tubac, AZ where the BP is trying to establish a permanent checkpoint. In response to info I got thru FOIA,Rep Giffords has brought about a "stay of proceedings" until the GAO finishes its study about the effectiveness of interior checkpoints. Are you aware of this? Can you help?
Permalink 2009-03-06 @ 16:20

Comments are closed for this post.

Roadblock Revelations

Welcome to Checkpoint USA's blog. Here you'll find general information and discussions regarding growing threats to our right to privacy & travel.

While I refer to court cases along with state and federal law frequently in this blog, nothing written here should be construed as legal advice. I am not an attorney. Rather, I'm someone concerned about the growing disregard for individual rights present at all levels of government.

My conclusions are my own based upon personal experience and research. The law is made purposely complex however and varies significantly from place to place and circumstance to circumstance.

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