ICE Rejects FOIA Request Over Drones Because ICE Has Determined It's Not 'Newsworthy'

from the i-sense-a-conflict dept

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, ICE, has a bit of a reputation around these parts. When it's not dealing with serious morale problems internally, it's censoring websites on no legal basis, holding questionable panty raids and grabbing people out of movies because the MPAA doesn't like their choice in eyewear. ICE also has a history of issuing really questionable FOIA denials (for what it's worth, ICE still won't respond to that FOIA request, many months later...).

Shawn Musgrave, over at Muckrock, recently sought some ICE documents via a FOIA request, specifically looking at "Operation Safeguard," a two-week program that ICE ran using Predator drones to police the US-Mexico border back in 2003. Musgrave sought ICE documents about Operation Safeguard, but ICE said that Musgrave didn't qualify as a journalist, thus limiting the power of his request (and allowing ICE to ask for more money to complete the request). Musgrave pointed to many of his published stories, but in response was told his request was still being rejected because the information is not about "current events or that would be of current interest to the public."
ICE is trying to play games with the definition of "news" in that response. The issue is most certainly "current interest to the public," and for ICE to self-decide otherwise is preposterous. Letting ICE FOIA officials determine what is and what is not newsworthy seems like opening up a huge loophole for ICE to create all sorts of problems on the FOIA front -- something that it seems particularly interested in doing.

ICE also claimed that there was enough info out there already about Operation Safeguard, so no need to release any more:
As Musgrave notes, this is incredibly misleading:

Having conducted my own online search ahead of submitting the FOIA request, I know foremost that studies from the Congressional Research Service refer to Operation Safeguard primarily in footnotes. Such CRS reports are conveniently posted on the Federation of American Scientists website.

What’s more, Senator Cantwell pressed for drones along the northern border in 2006 by vaguely citing Operation Safeguard’s findings.

But the Center for International Policy came to the most critical finding of all in surveying domestic drones in April 2013: “Unfortunately, Congress never reviewed the results of Operation Safeguard pilot project.”

Such a bounty is enviable, but is no substitute for the documents themselves. And while ICE may not see much news value in the origins of a program currently under intense scrutiny, someone somewhere just might.

It really does seem like operations like ICE really are just looking for excuses to reject FOIA requests these days...
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Filed Under: dhs, drones, exemptions, foia, ice, newsworthy, operation safeguard


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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 19 Mar 2015 @ 10:47am

    Translated

    "We reject your request because we don't wish this to become newsworthy."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 12:02pm

    You are a public agency.

    Everything you have ever done, everything you are doing, everything you will ever do, will always be of current interest to the public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 12:04pm

    Transparancy my ass

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 12:18pm

    Message to the ICE

    With all due respect, we the public, will determine what our "current interests" are, not you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 2:58pm

      Re: Message to the ICE

      With all due respect, we the public, will determine what our "current interests" are, not you.

      Oh yeah? You and whose army?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 12:33pm

    At least it's better (cheaper) than getting back a stack of blanked-out pages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 3:00pm

    In related news the government has declared that its crimes are not newsworthy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 6:27pm

    Hey spy dudes - my personal details are also not news worthy, so why all the interest then - huh? Go stick your nose up someone else's arse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 19 Mar 2015 @ 6:44pm

    Transparency, my big butt!

    The government wants to make its work so transparent, that it is invisible! "Nothing to see here - move on!"...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 20 Mar 2015 @ 10:26am

    I take then that FOIA transperancy laws continue to have no teeth.

    If they won't be enforced without a court order (and will sometimes be ignored even with a court order) and can be discouraged or circumvented with excessive redactions, odious fees and lame excuses...

    Isn't it time that we start acknowledging that the FOIA system we have serves as a veneer, to give the illusion that we have a FOIA system that actually works to ensure agency transparency?

    When the people cannot see what the state is doing, the state is no longer accountable to the people. Basic Poli-sci.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rapnel (profile), 20 Mar 2015 @ 2:56pm

    Weird. If it's an armed and dangerous three letter agency it's the citizen that needs to be concerned and if it's an unarmed agency then it's a corporation that heavily lobbies (read: sponsors) *our* government representatives so they can be a little less concerned. How fucked is that? And now this agency can tell *us* not only what news is relevant but who's allowed to report on it when they "permit" relevancy? Check.

    Not too mention every XYZ bunch runs on our taxes and most of their existence is spent in justifying their existence - via any means necessary. What's the condition of the state e of education in this country again? Right.

    Fuck you, ICE, answer the request. It's high time you over-armed and over-equipped fascists start abiding by the law of the land. Look it up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 20 Mar 2015 @ 3:58pm

    We had it coming.

    Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy

    James Madison's observation of abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments

    The corruption of power

    We saw all these things coming, but our intellect and hubris were no match for the bestial nature that drives us to apathy and shortsightedness.

    We had it coming.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pragmatic, 23 Mar 2015 @ 6:37am

      Re: We had it coming.

      Our innate selfishness causes us to ignore problems until they are our own. Only when we've learned to care more about each other will we be able to overcome this.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 23 Mar 2015 @ 11:43am

        The human species won't change. Only a better system will change this.

        We need to develop a system that manages and recognizes the people we have, not the people we want. We know, for instance that the majority will be shitty to minorities with whom they don't immediately have empathy or understanding (The tyranny of the majority) and we know that, that individuals will abuse common resources for their own personal benefit even when it ruins those resources for everyone else (the tragedy of the commons). We can't expect people to just be better any more than we can expect government agencies to curb waste. We have to create a system that addresses these problems, maybe by disincentivizing the path of least resistance.

        It's a problem that's definitely bigger than my brain. Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem suggests we'll never run out of incidents of tragic commons and tyrannical majorities, we can only reduce them by treating specific instances, and hoping the fix affects others that would have happened.

        The immediate problem with ICE rejecting FOIA requests can be fixed by implementing consequences to FOIA failures and addressing common reasons for rejection (for instance make the punishment for instances of overclassification the publication of the unredacted document, no matter how sensitive it might be to someone somewhere who regards it as sensitive.)

        Not that I have any faith that this regime wants to reform FOIA and restore transparency to the people. The people with power in this regime like it the way it is, and don't care that people are miserable and angry. Such suggestions would be for the next regime.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 23 Mar 2015 @ 1:04pm

    The Currency of Life on Earth

    The problem is far greater than most can imagine.

    The actual cause of human grief is one that cannot be comprehended by most humans as the cause because the cause is universally worshipped by humans as the greatest process on earth.

    When the reward is wealth, the actions that lead to that reward cannot be avoided.

    All of human grief, including poverty, disease, war ... all can be laid at the feet of capital incentive.

    Diseases are not cured because there is more money in selling momentary remedies that do little more than mask the symptoms by poisoning the part of the body that reacts to that disorder, while protecting the underlying disease which insures that the momentary remedies can be sold repeatedly to each sufferer who will never be rid of the malady - and in the case of contagious diseases continue to spread the diseases among friends and family, creating new paying customers.

    Poverty cannot be ended because the whole system we live under demands a huge work-force be maintained at poverty level to insure their willingness to perform mindless menial tasks, essential to the profits of those with money, who own the machinery of civilization, in return for enough cash to prevent their own and their family's starvation and maintain minimal shelter from the elements.

    War is the great business plan, which turns a nation's poor into willing slaves who will work tirelessly for the war effort, in the factories of the rich, for less than subsistence wages, manufacturing products paid for by public taxes, that will be destroyed over and over again, increasing the profits of the rich manifold.

    The same poor will also fill the military ranks in order to earn enough money to feed their families and will willingly kill and die to steal a foreign nation's wealth and resources for the rich non-combatants back home.

    The chaos of war also keeps the general public unaware of the highly lucrative criminal enterprises of the vastly wealthy that always proliferate successfully under the fog of war.

    The promise of the rewards of wealth lead inexorably towards the performance of those actions that create the most return on investment, and no power on earth can sway the human race from following those paths that are proven to be profitable as long as the primary incentive for life on earth is wealth.

    None of the other consequent symptoms of human malfunction can be solved until humanity's monetary addiction is cured.

    Since the human race refuses to even accept the notion that money could possibly ever be any sort of a problem - except in the lack thereof - it is highly unlikely that any of humanity's social dysfunctions can ever be solved.

    I'm certainly not holding my breathe. :)

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      GEMont (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 2:03pm

      Re: The Currency of Life on Earth

      As a footnote, one of the main reasons, I think, that the USG is now composed of millionaire criminals hell-bent on liquidating the assets of the US Public for fun and profit, is the automatic and direct access it has to American Tax money - and of course the fact that it can tax the public without accounting for where or how that money is spent.

      An annual, automatically renewed bounty of cash, that size, collected without even the tiniest pretext to its necessity or legality, is like a monstrously huge turd that is absolutely guaranteed to attract exactly the sort of vermin that currently occupies the halls of US power.

      If the US public does not actually abolish the Federal Government altogether, the next best thing would be to remove its automatic access to Tax Payer's money and make it ask for and account for in full, every nickel it gets, by law.

      Of course, since the currently conquered citizens of 5-I member nation number 2, have no voice and no say in the direction their country is heading, or in the manner in which they are governed, I suppose that's just another pipe dream too.

      C'est la vie, eh.

      ----

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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