from the stop-being-deliberately-obtuse dept

U.S. Immigration and Customized Enforcement (ICE), like almost each authorities company, doesn’t care a lot for FOIA requests or requesters. It generally takes a lawsuit to pressure the company to adjust to its FOIA obligations. And its day-to-day dealing with of FOIA requests is so uninspired, it couldn’t even come up with a reason to disclaim Mike Masnick’s payment waiver request.

Primarily based on my overview of your March 4, 2014 letter and for the explanations said herein, I’ve decided that your payment waiver request is poor as a result of .

It must be (barely) extra responsive now. The Second Circuit Appeals Court docket has reversed a reasonably horrible determination by the decrease court docket in an FOIA lawsuit introduced by the ACLU. The Appeals Court docket decision [PDF] opens up with the court docket’s try to elucidate ICE’s needlessly-convoluted incident monitoring system.

ICE’s Enforcement Built-in Database (“EID”) is the company’s “widespread database repository for all information created, up to date, and accessed by a variety of software program functions.“ EID permits ICE officers, together with different law-enforcement parts of the Division of Homeland Safety, “to handle circumstances from the time of an alien’s arrest, in-processing, or placement into elimination proceedings, by means of the ultimate case disposition.” EID, nonetheless, doesn’t retailer information on a person-centric foundation; somewhat, it shops information in an event-centric method. Thus, when a selected enforcement occasion happens, ICE officers enter it into EID the place it’s saved with information recording comparable occasions somewhat than with information pertaining to the identical alien.

That’s a bizarre means of dealing with issues, particularly if ICE is all for monitoring individuals, somewhat than simply incidents. And it’s all for monitoring individuals. It simply does the entire thing backwards. Immigration legal professionals and advocates additionally want this info to assist their shoppers — one thing that’s usually only available via FOIA request. That presumably explains why ICE catalogs information this fashion. It doesn’t cease ICE from monitoring immigrants throughout the database, because the court docket notes:

Nonetheless, ICE software program does allow the company to retrieve EID information on a person-centric foundation. Particularly, with an acceptable identifier—right here the alien’s A-Quantity—ICE can search on an advert hoc foundation for all occasions pertaining to that specific alien.

It does, nonetheless, make it extraordinarily troublesome for outsiders to do the identical factor, a lot much less collect all info related to their shoppers. The ACLU sought information from a number of incident classes and requested ICE to, principally, make the information sortable by particular person, somewhat than by incident kind. ICE ultimately handed over the information, however redacted the A-Numbers, making the spreadsheets utterly ineffective to the ACLU.

ICE did this regardless of the ACLU asking that ICE substitute A-Numbers with distinctive ID numbers, understanding that ICE thought of A-Numbers exempt from FOIA requests. ICE refused to carry out this easy process, as a substitute changing the A-Numbers with FOIA exemption codes.

ICE responded to the ACLU’s lawsuit by claiming (1) it wasn’t obligated to do that, and (2) it couldn’t do that.

In its movement for abstract judgment, ICE conceded that an A-Quantity is “[t]he solely piece of data saved in a row of IIDS information that connects an entry to a person uniquely.” However, ICE submitted that, as a result of A-Numbers are exempt as PII, and since the substitution of such numbers with Distinctive IDs would require the creation of recent information—an obligation not imposed by FOIA—ICE’s manufacturing to ACLU with out Distinctive IDs had glad its FOIA obligations. Additional, ICE professed to not have a pc program by which it might create person-centric reviews of digital information, “i.e., with every row equivalent to a person and exhibiting that particular person’s removals, detentions, and so on.”

LOL. ICE is principally claiming it doesn’t personal a spreadsheet program, regardless of handing the ACLU a number of spreadsheets in response to its FOIA request.

The Appeals Court docket says that is clearly ridiculous. Any figuring out quantity might be used to permit monitoring of immigrants throughout a number of incident classes. Since ICE claims its A-Numbers are personally identifiable data, it might swap that out with another constant identifier that will be non-exempt. Since this doesn’t change something in regards to the requested information, it’s not the creation of recent information.

Offering intentionally ineffective info to FOIA requesters received’t fly both.

[W]e conclude that ICE could not depend on A-Numbers’ exemption from FOIA disclosure to disclaim the general public equal entry to non-exempt information. Relatively, ICE should discover another means to supply ACLU with responsive person-centric entry to non-exempt information.

Certainly, to carry in any other case might have the perverse impact of encouraging companies to make exempt information the singular means for having access to non-exempt information conscious of a selected question and, thereby, successfully to hide these information from the general public, a minimum of in the best way conscious of the question. Such an final result is opposite to the “clear legislative intent” underlying FOIA

The answer is one the ACLU proposed. ICE can’t proceed to be this obtuse.

A bodily analogy could also be helpful. If an company had been to take care of non-exempt, person-centric information in a vault, the lock of which might be opened solely with a mixture of exempt numbers, the company couldn’t decline to provide paperwork from the vault by invoking the exemption afforded to the lock mixture. Relatively, FOIA would oblige the company to open the vault itself and produce the responsive information. Or, the company must change the mix to non-exempt numbers and thereby afford public entry. So right here, ICE should itself use A-Numbers to provide a spreadsheet of person-centric information for ACLU, see infra at 38-39, or, as ACLU right here requests, ICE should change the “lock” mixture numbers in order that ACLU can itself entry information in a person-centric method.

ICE loses. It must be truly conscious of ACLU’s request, somewhat than simply handing it a bunch of information whereas withholding the one factor that may make that information helpful.

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Firms: aclu

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