Freedom of Information Act

Response to My FOIA

Last fall, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S Customs and Border Protection. Well, it took them about 11 months, which is 10 months longer then the guidelines state, but I finally received my request today.

The letter reads:

Dear Mr. Ferguson:

This is the final response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), dated September 26, 2007, seeking information relating to you in the Automated Targeting System (ATS).

A search of the CBP, ATS database has produced 5 pages responsive to your request. Of those pages, CBP has determined that certain portions of the enclosed documents are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Title 5 U.S.C. § 522 (b)(2)(low), (b)(6) and (b)(7)(c).

Exemption 2(low) exempts from disclosure records that are related to internal matters of a relatively trivial nature, such a internal administrative tracking.

FOIA Exemption 6 exempts from disclosure personnel or medical files and similar files the release of which would cause a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

Exemption 7(c) protects records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes that could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

You may appeal the deletions to the Office of Regulations and Rulings, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Mint Annex 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20229. Your appeal must be made in writing within 60 days after the date of this notification. Both the fron of the envelope and the appeal letter should contain the notation “Freedom of Information Act Appeal”. Please notate file number 2008XXXXX on any future correspondence to CBP related to this request.


Mark Hanson
Director, FOIA Division
Office of International Trade

There were five enclosed pages, most with some form of redaction. Here’s the first page:

All the black ink is redaction done by Customs and Border Protection. All the blurring is done by me. And no, the irony of redacting an already redacted document obtained through a FOIA request is not lost on me.


FOIA Request Delivered

My FOIA request has been delivered, now it’s just a matter of time:


Label/Receipt Number: 7006 2760 0003 0877 1109
Detailed Results:

  • Delivered, October 02, 2007, 9:20 am, WASHINGTON, DC 20229
  • Arrival at Unit, October 02, 2007, 1:35 am, WASHINGTON, DC 20022
  • Acceptance, September 27, 2007, 3:22 pm, GOLDEN, CO 80401
  • “OMB guidelines say that Homeland Security “should” acknowledge your request within 10 business days and provide access to the records within 30 days.” [1]



    My Freedom of Information Act Request

    I filled my first ever FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request today. Technically, it was a Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act (PA) requests related to the Office of Border Patrol.


    The Freedom of Information Act generally provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions (special categories of law enforcement-related records that have been entirely excluded from the coverage of the FOIA).

    I’m basically requesting the dossier that the Department of Homeland security has compiled on me…at least the unclassified parts.


    The Department of Homeland Security already knows everything about your travel. Now, for the first time, The Identity Project makes it easy for you to request the unclassified parts of the dossier that the DHS has complied on you.

    I’ll be interesting to see what, if anything they send me. Here’s basically what I’m requesting:

    “copies of all information relating to myself contained in the system of records established for the Automated Targeting System (“ATS”). Notice of this system of records (“SORN”) was made in the Federal Register on November 2, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 212, pages 64543-64546). This request letter is accompanied by a completed Request for Records/Privacy Act Release Form.

    My request is for all information relating to myself referenced in the Categories of Records in the System section of the SORN. Specifically, I am asking for any PNR information obtained from commercial air carriers, any records relating to any risk assessments, the rules used for determining the assessments, any pointer or reference to the underlying records from other systems that resulted in the assessments, any APIS information, and any secondary inspection records. I am requesting these records as is my right under 5 U.S.C. § 552a(d)(1). (See also OMB Guidelines (40 Fed. Reg. 28948, 28957) as well as a 2004 U.S. Department of Justice overview of the Privacy Act, “a requestor need not state his reason for seeking access to records under the Privacy Act…” )

    Should CBP provide less than a complete copy of all records relating to myself contained in this system of records, I request a detailed explanation as to the reasons for denying or not fully complying with my request.”

    via BoingBoing