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DOJ Says Office of Homeland Security Not Subject to FOIA
by friend of EPIC
Friday May 10th, 2002 1:05 PM
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit against the Office of Homeland Security, but the Dept. of "Justice" claims it should be dismissed...Read more information here from EPIC
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking the dismissal of EPIC's
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Office of
Homeland Security (OHS). In a brief submitted to the U.S. District
Court in Washington, DOJ argues that OHS is not an "agency" and
therefore is not subject to the FOIA's open government requirements.
The brief argues that the OHS "functions solely to advise and assist
the President and, does not exercise substantial independent
authority." It likens the OHS to the National Security Council, which
the D.C. Circuit Court in 1996 held was exempt from the FOIA.

EPIC plans to file a reply arguing that the OHS does in fact exercise
substantial independent authority. The OHS has a limited track
record, but has extensive powers that are already in evidence. The
administration appears to prefer downplaying the role of the OHS so
that there will be no "chilling effect on the advisory role" from the
"knowledge that FOIA can be invoked." EPIC firmly believes that,
under well-established principles of open government, an agency like
the OHS -- especially with its important mandate -- should be open to
public oversight. The FOIA, which, among other agencies, covers the
CIA, FBI, and NSA, makes adequate provision for protecting sensitive
information from disclosure. Acknowledging the proper role of the OHS
will also serve to make the office more effective.

EPIC is seeking the disclosure of documents relating to OHS Director
Tom Ridge's efforts to create a "trusted-traveler" card and his plans
to standardize state driver's licenses so as to create a de facto
national identification system.

For more information, see EPIC's Homeland Security Page:

http://www.epic.org/open_gov/homeland/

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