EPIC FOIA Cases
- EPIC v. DOJ (Umbrella Agreement) (2015)
- EPIC v. USCG (Nationwide Automatic Identification System) (2015)
- EPIC v. CIA (CIA Congressional Spying) (2014)
- EPIC v. DOD (E-Voting Security Tests) (2014)
- EPIC v. FBI (Privacy Assessments) (2014)
- EPIC v. CBP (Analyticial Framework for Intelligence) (2014)
- EPIC v. Army (Surveillance Blimps) (2014)
- EPIC v. DEA (Hemisphere) (2014)
- EPIC v. DOJ (Pen Register Reports) (2013)
- EPIC v. DOJ (OLC Prism Memos) (2013)
- EPIC v. BBG (Tor Funding) (2013)
- EPIC v. FBI (Next Generation Identification) (2013)
- EPIC v. Department of Education (Private Debt Collector Privacy Act Compliance) (2013)
- EPIC v. DHS (SOP 303) (2013)
- EPIC v. CIA (Domestic Surveillance) (2012)
- EPIC v. ODNI (Revised Guidelines) (2012)
- EPIC v. FBI (Stingray/Cell Site Simulation) (2012)
- EPIC v. DHS (Defense Contractor Monitoring) (2012)
- EPIC v. DOJ & FBI (Wikileaks) (2012)
- EPIC v. DHS (Social Media Monitoring) (2011)
- EPIC Asks Court to Require DHS Disclosure of Mobile Body Scanner Documents (2011)
- Google Street View Investigations (2011)
- EPIC v. TSA (Body Scanner Modifications) (2011)
- EPIC v. DHS (Body Scanner Radiation Risks) (2010)
- EPIC v. NSA (Google Relationship) (2010, 2011)
- EPIC v. NSA (Cybersecurity Authority) (2010)
- EPIC v. DOJ (FOIA, Body Scanners) (2009)
- EPIC v. DHS (FOIA, Body Scanners) (2009, 2010)
- EPIC v. FTC (Conflict of Interest) (2008)
- EPIC v. VSP (Fusion Centers) (2008)
- EPIC v. DOJ (Warrantless Wiretapping) (2006)
- Department of Commerce: Privacy Shield "does not exist": As a response to EPIC's Freedom of Information request for the "Privacy Shield," the Commerce Department responded that "the record you requested does not exist." EU and US officials celebrated earlier this month that the EU and the US reached an agreement for transatlantic data transfers but they did not make the agreement public. Apparently there was nothing to make public since the agreement does not exist. The EPIC FOIA request is designated DOC-ITA-2016-000577. (Feb. 10, 2016)
- EPIC v. DOJ: EPIC Prevails, DOJ Releases Secret EU-US Umbrella Agreement: After months of delay, the Department of Justice has finally released to EPIC the full text of the EU-US Umbrella Agreement. EPIC sued the DOJ last year after the agency failed to act on EPIC's FOIA request for the secret agreement. Today's release comes on the heels of EPIC's opposition to the agency's attempt to further delay the Agreement's release. The Umbrella Agreement outlines data transfers between EU and US law enforcement agencies, and is the basis for the Judicial Redress Act currently before Congress. EPIC has criticized the legislation, and recently urged the Senate to delay action on the bill until the DOJ releases the Umbrella Agreement and the Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the legislation. (Jan. 25, 2016)
- Amid Criticism of Agency Compliance, House Passes Substantial FOIA Reforms: Congress has passed the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, H.R. 653, which would limit exemptions that allow agencies to withhold public records, create an online portal for FOIA requests, and require agencies to post frequently requested documents. Open government advocates and members of Congress have criticized federal agencies for lax compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. The House Oversight Committee concluded that "[e]xcessive delays and redactions" have undermined the Act." The FOIA Ombudsman criticized the Transportation Security Administration for its "weak management" and lack of a "FOIA tracking system." EPIC has pursued many FOIA cases. EPIC and a coalition previously urged President Obama to strengthen the FOIA by committing to a "presumption of openness" and narrowing the use of FOIA exemptions. (Jan. 11, 2016) More top news »
- EPIC Seeks Default Judgment in Umbrella Agreement Lawsuit » (Jan. 6, 2016)
In its fight to obtain a copy of the EU-US Umbrella Agreement, EPIC asked a federal court in Washington, D.C. today to grant default judgment against the Department of Justice. EPIC sued the agency to obtain the secret agreement, which concerns the transfer of personal information between the EU and US. After the DOJ failed to answer EPIC's complaint, the court entered default against the agency. The Agreement is central to pending legislation, which the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to debate this month yet the DOJ has not made the document available to the public or to Members of Congress.
- EPIC Urges OMB to Update Open Government Plan » (Dec. 21, 2015)
EPIC and a coalition of transparency advocates urged the Office of Management and Budget to comply with President Obama's plan to promote open government. The OMB is expected to produce an open government plan, "describ[ing] how it will improve transparency." However, OMB Has failed to act even as the Administration has urged other governments to adopt similar plans. "The failure is particularly troubling," wrote the groups, "because OMB is an agency with a central oversight role on information policy, it has responsibility for implementation of this plan, and it often serves as the right hand of the President." EPIC and others previously called on President Obama to address weaknesses in open government administration and support FOIA reform.
- Report on "Still Interested?" Letters Delayed Until 2016 » (Dec. 10, 2015)
The federal FOIA Ombudsman informed EPIC that an investigation into the open government practices of the Department of Homeland Security won't be finished until March 2016. In 2014, EPIC and other open government advocates urged the Office of Government Information Services to investigate "still interested?" letters. The DHS has sent these letters to FOIA requesters to prematurely terminate open government requests. EPIC objected to the practice and explained that "no provision in the FOIA allows for administrative closures."
- EPIC, Coalition Criticize Platform for Comments to Government » (Dec. 4, 2015)
EPIC and a coalition of open government organizations submitted a letter to the Office of Management and Budget regarding revisions to Circular A-130, a government policy for access to information resources. The groups expressed concern about a poorly designed Internet service -- GitHub -- that created "new barriers to public participation in government decision-making." EPIC and its partners called on the OMB to "ensure meaningful public participation by notifying the public of opportunities to comment and accepting comments in other formats." EPIC frequently submits comments to state and federal agencies. OMB is accepting comments on A-130 through December 5.
- EPIC to Receive More Documents in Boater Surveillance Case » (Nov. 24, 2015)
This morning a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ordered the U.S. Coast Guard to release to EPIC, within sixty days, additional documents on the "National Automated Identification System,' a controversial boater tracking program that EPIC is investigating. According to documents previously obtained by EPIC, the Department of Homeland Security believes that boaters have "no expectation of privacy with regard to any information transmitted" on the Automated Identification System. The documents also reveal that the DHS fuses AIS data with other government data to develop detailed profiles on boaters. EPIC has previously expressed support for AIS to promote maritime safety, but warned that the NAIS system exceeds this purpose. In January, EPIC expects to receive contracts and privacy impact assessments that were previously withheld.
- EPIC Obtains Documents on Secret DNA Forensic Source Code » (Nov. 10, 2015)
In response to EPIC's state public records requests, Virginia and Pennsylvania have both released documents about "TrueAllele," a proprietary technique used in DNA forensic analysis. Virginia released to EPIC a validation study and validation summary prepared by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science. Pennsylvania produced purchase and service contracts, technical specifications, and user manuals for TrueAllele. Agencies in California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have stated that they do not have access to the TrueAllele source code that they are using to produce evidence against defendants. EPIC's open government requests cited the importance of algorithmic transparency in the criminal justice system.
- US Releases Updated Open Government Plan » (Nov. 5, 2015)
The United States has released its Third Open Government National Action Plan, an initiative pursued by countries and NGOs participating in the Open Government Partnership. In response to recommendations proposed by EPIC and a coalition of civil society groups, the administration pledged to modernize implementation of the FOIA, streamline record declassification, and increase transparency of the intelligence community. The White House, however, failed to incorporate other recommendations such as publishing FISC opinions and pledging to limit the use of the FOIA's b(5) Exemption. EPIC and others previously called on President Obama to address weaknesses in open government administration and push for meaningful FOIA reform.
- Senator Leahy Opposes FOIA Exemptions in Cyber Security Bill » (Oct. 27, 2015)
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) urged fellow Senators to remove a proposed open government exemption in a pending cybersecurity bill. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), said Sen. Leahy, "contains an overly broad new FOIA exemption that is both unnecessary and harmful." Sen. Leahy called the FOIA "our nation's premier transparency law," and said that any modifications must go through the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The Senate must have an open and honest debate about the Senate Intelligence Committee's bill and its implications for Americans' privacy and government transparency," remarked the Senator. Last year, EPIC won a five-year court battle against the NSA for NSPD 54, the foundational legal document for U.S. cybersecurity policies. EPIC has also set out recommendations for FOIA reform.
- EPIC Pursues Public Release of Secret DNA Forensic Source Code » (Oct. 14, 2015)
EPIC has filed public records requests in six states to obtain the source code of "TrueAllele," a software product used in DNA forensic analysis. According to recent news reports, law enforcement officials use TrueAllele test results to establish guilt, but individuals accused of crimes are denied access to the source code that produces the results. A similar program used by New Zealand prosecutors was recently found to have a coding error that provided incorrect results in 60 cases, including a high-profile murder case. EPIC has previously urged the US Supreme Court to carefully consider the reliability of new investigative techniques and argued a federal appeals case against DNA dragnet surveillance. Citing the importance of algorithmic transparency in the criminal justice system, EPIC filed requests in California, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
- Government Gets Second Extension in EPIC Supreme Court Case about Cellphone Shutdown Policy » (Oct. 12, 2015)
The US Supreme Court has granted the Solicitor General more time to respond to EPIC's charges that the government's effort to keep under wraps a controversial cellphone shutdown policy violates the law. EPIC has pursued public release of the government policy since BART subway officials shut down cellphone service during a peaceful protest in 2011. After EPIC prevailed in district court and a judge ordered release of the policy, the government appealed and a federal appeals court reversed. In the Supreme Court petition, EPIC argued that the was "contrary to the intent of Congress, this Court's precedent, and this Court's specific guidance on statutory interpretation." The government's response is now due on November 13.
- EPIC Urges Homeland Security to Uphold the Public's Right to Know » (Sep. 29, 2015)
On International Right to Know Day, EPIC submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security, urging the agency to uphold the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC objected to several of the agency's proposals, including changes to the FOIA that would: (1) prematurely terminate FOIA requests; (2) withhold the names of agencies to which DHS may refer FOIA requests; and (3) increase open government fees for students conducting research. EPIC also supported several changes that will make it easier for the public to obtain information from the DHS. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters.
- EPIC celebrates International Right to Know Day » (Sep. 25, 2015)
On September 28, EPIC celebrates International Right to Know Day and government transparency. EPIC has pursued
numerous FOIA cases and routinely made the information obtained available to Congress and the public. EPIC recently filed a FOIA request to obtain the secret US-EU data transfer agreement. For more information, see EPIC Open Government. @EPICprivacy #FOISuccess #IRTKD2015
- EPIC Recommends Changes to Judicial Redress Act » (Sep. 16, 2015)
In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, EPIC recommended changes to the Judicial Redress Act to provide meaningful protections for data collected on non-U.S. persons. The bill, also pending in the Senate, seeks to amend the federal Privacy Act. EPIC explained that the legislation under consideration fails to provide adequate protection to permit transborder data flows. EPIC also pointed to increasing public concern in the United States about failure to enforce the law. EPIC has previously recommended Congressional action to ensure adequate protections for all personal information collected by U.S. federal agencies. EPIC is also seeking public release of the text of the EU-US "Umbrella Agreement."
- Congress Moves to Advance Judicial Redress Act as Secret Police Agreement is Leaked in Europe » (Sep. 15, 2015)
A Congressional committee will this week consider endorsement of the Judicial Redress Act, after announcement of the just concluded EU-US "Umbrella Agreement." EPIC filed expedited an FOIA requests to obtain the text of the secret agreement. The document was since made available by Statewatch. EPIC will pursue official release of the Agreement from US and EU authorities to the public. Regarding amendments to the Privacy Act, EPIC has made extensive recommendations for Privacy Act modernization, including specific changes to the damages provision that would correct a Supreme Court holding and address such problems as the OPM data breach.
- EPIC Pursues Public Release of EU-US Agreement on Data Transfers » (Sep. 10, 2015)
EPIC has filed an expedited FOIA request to obtain a secret agreement between US and EU law enforcement agencies concerning the transfer of personal data. Citing legislation pending in Congress and NGO concern about the scope of the data protection safeguards, EPIC said "there is an urgency to inform the public" about the contents of the agreement. EPIC has pursued numerous FOIA cases and routinely made the information obtained available to Congress and the public. The agency has 10 days to respond to EPIC's request about the law enforcement "umbrella agreement."
- Following EPIC Complaint, FOIA Ombudsman Announces Investigation of Practices at DHS » (Aug. 28, 2015)
The federal FOIA ombudsman has informed EPIC that it is investigating the FOIA practices of six DHS component agencies. In 2014, EPIC and a dozen open government organizations urged the Office of Government Information Services to investigate the impermissible closures of FOIA requests. Through "still interested" letters, some federal agencies notify FOIA requesters that unprocessed requests will be closed by the agency if there is no further communication. EPIC and the open government groups object to the practice and reminded OGIS that "no provision in the [FOIA] allows for administrative closures." An earlier EPIC letter to OGIS led to a reduction of fee payments for FOIA requesters.
- State Department and Homeland Security Propose Open Government Rules » (Aug. 3, 2015)
The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have each proposed to amend their Freedom of Information Act programs. Both agencies propose several favorable changes to their FOIA programs, including more circumstances in which the agencies would expedite processing for open government requests. The agencies are currently accepting public comments on their proposals until September 28. EPIC recently submitted extensive comments to the Defense Department, opposing several of the agency's plans to amend its FOIA program. EPIC routinely comments on FOIA rulemakings and has had past success with the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission, and several other federal agencies.
- Open Government Groups Oppose Proposed FOIA Exemptions » (Jul. 27, 2015)
Over the weekend, several open government groups urged Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) and Sen. Harry Reid (D) to remove proposed FOIA "b(3)" exemptions from a pending transportation bill. The exemptions would exclude public access to information about safety audits, trucking company safety scores, accident footage, and records related to hazardous train service. The groups oppose the exemptions and also explained that such proposals should be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee which is responsible for FOIA oversight. EPIC previously set out recommendations for FOIA reform.
- Justice Department Releases 2015 FOIA Reports » (Jul. 23, 2015)
The DOJ has released its assessment of federal agencies' 2015 FOIA compliance reports. Every year, agencies submit reports to the Justice Department describing their progress in implementing President Obama's Memo and former AG Eric Holder's Guidelines to promote FOIA compliance. The DOJ grades progress in five areas: applying the presumption of openness, effective and responsive systems, proactively releasing information, utilizing technology, and reducing backlogs and improving response times. EPIC and other open government organizations have called on President Obama to strengthen the FOIA.
- Justice Department Issues Guidance on "Administrative Closures" for FOIA Requests » (Jul. 7, 2015)
The Department of Justice has told federal agencies to continue processing FOIA requests after EPIC and many FOIA groups objected to the practice of "administrate closures." The Department advised agencies to limit administrative closures of FOIA requests and to provide "reasonable grounds" for ending processing. The Department also said agencies should provide requesters at least 30 days to respond to a proposal to end processing of a FOIA request. In 2014 EPIC and a dozen open government organizations stated that "no provision in the [FOIA] allows for administrative closures . . ."
- EPIC Pursues Documents about Secret Government Profiling Program » (Jul. 1, 2015)
EPIC has filed papers in federal court challenging the government's claim that it can withhold information about automated profiling. In EPIC v. CBP, a Freedom of Information Act case, EPIC seeks documents about the "Analytical Framework for Intelligence" which incorporates personal information from government agencies, commercial data brokers, and the Internet. The agency then uses secret, analytic tools to assign "risk assessments" to travelers, including U.S. citizens traveling solely within the United States. EPIC has called for "algorithmic transparency" in automated decisions concerning individuals.
- EPIC Obtains Documents on "Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation" Program » (Jun. 9, 2015)
Pursuant to a FOIA request, the DHS has released to EPIC the first set of documents about a new pre-crime detection program. The so-called "Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation" Program attempts to predict violent behavior based on public record information. EPIC previously uncovered documents about the DHS's Future Attribute Screening Program, another pre-crime initiative. "Minority Report," a 2002 film starring Tom Cruise, also explored the topic of pre-crime detection.
- EPIC Sues Drug Enforcement Administration For Release of Privacy Assessments » (May. 1, 2015)
EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain details about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s surveillance programs. The agency is required to publish privacy impact assessments for its data collection programs. However, the agency has failed to make available privacy impact assessments for many of its programs, including the massive cell phone metadata program "Hemisphere" and a nationwide license plate reader program. EPIC has a related lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation for that agency’s privacy impact assessments for several programs including "Next Generation Identification."
- DHS Defends Government Secrecy in "Internet Kill Switch" Case » (Apr. 28, 2015)
The Department of Homeland Security has filed a brief in response to EPIC's petition for rehearing in the "Internet Kill Switch" case. EPIC is seeking the release of the public policy that allows the government to suspend cell phone service. The D.C. Circuit previously ruled that DHS may withhold the policy. EPIC pursued the shutdown policy after government officials disabled cell phone service during a peaceful protest in San Francisco. EPIC cited both free speech and public safety concerns and noted that the policy was never subject to public rule making. The Federal Communications Commission recently warned government agencies not to use "jammers," devices that block cell phone signals, because of public safety risks.
- Drug Enforcement Agency Gathered Telephone Records on Millions of Americans » (Apr. 8, 2015)
According to USA Today the Drug Enforcement Agency has engaged in a secret telephone record collection program involving Americans for many years. The federal agency collected the telephone call records of Americans for nearly a decade before September 11. Government officials told USA Today that the program was discontinued in 2013, but documents obtained by EPIC indicate that the DEA program "Hemisphere" is ongoing. EPIC is pursuing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC v. DEA, to obtain further details about the DEA's bulk collection activities. EPIC is also pursuing related suits against the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice concerning metadata collection.
- Department of Justice Adopts Improved FOIA Rule » (Apr. 3, 2015)
In response to extensive comments by EPIC and the Sunlight Foundation, the Department of Justice has issued an improved final rule that will govern the agency's Freedom of Information Act practices. The initial rule would have made it difficult for FOIA requesters to obtain favorable fee status, created new obstacles to open government, and reduced agency oversight. The final rule adopted by the agency incorporates nearly all of EPIC's recommendations, including provisions that help ensure accountability, access, and favorable fee status for news media and educational requesters. EPIC routinely comments on agency FOIA rulemakings, and has had past success with the Federal Trade Commission, Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and other federal agencies.
- Court Orders Government to Respond to EPIC's Petition in Case Over Cell Phone Shutdown Policy » (Apr. 3, 2015)
The federal appeals court in Washington, DC, has ordered DHS to respond to EPIC's petition to reconsider a recent decision allowing the federal agency to withhold the criteria for shutdown of cell phone networks. EPIC sued the DHS for the policy following a 2011 San Francisco BART incident, when government officials shut down cell phone service during a peaceful protest. EPIC argued that the recent decision would "create an untethered national security exemption for law enforcement agencies," and is contrary to other court decisions and the intent of Congress. The appeals court has determined that the government must respond to EPIC's petition.
- EPIC Pursues Investigation of FTC's 2012 Investigation of Google » (Mar. 26, 2015)
EPIC has filed a FOIA request with the Federal Trade Commission, reopening a 2013 FOIA request from EPIC regarding the Commission's Google antitrust investigation. After the agency closed the investigation in 2013, EPIC asked for agency communications with the White House. The FTC denied having any such records. Now, the Wall Street Journal has reported that the Chairman of the FTC attended White House meetings on the same day as Google lobbyists. EPIC also filed a request this week for the FTC staff reports recommending that the agency file an antitrust lawsuit against Google.
- EPIC Partially Prevails in FOIA Case, Wikileaks Investigation Ongoing » (Mar. 5, 2015)
A federal judge has granted in part EPIC's motion for summary judgment in a FOIA case about the government's surveillance of Wikileaks supporters. Three divisions of the Justice Department - the FBI, the National Security Division, and the Criminal Division - failed to provide any documents in response to EPIC's FOIA request. The FBI stated that there was no surveillance of supporters and that an investigation was ongoing. Judge Rothstein sided with the FBI and the Criminal Division, but held that the National Security Division had failed to justify its withholdings.
- Senators Seek Answers on Use of Cell Phone Surveillance Devices » (Jan. 2, 2015)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have asked Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson several questions about the government’s use of cell site simulators or “Stingray” devices to track cell phones. According to the letter, the Senators previously asked FBI Director James Comey about the FBI’s use of cell site simulators and, after two briefings with the Senators, the FBI announced a new policy that it would obtain search warrants before using the devices, subject to certain exceptions. The new letter raises questions about the broader use of cell site simulators by other law enforcement agencies and their impact on the privacy of innocent individuals. EPIC filled a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act in 2012, seeking information about the FBI’s use of cell site simulators and, in particular, what legal process the agency required before deploying the technology. As a result of EPIC’s lawsuit, more than 4,000 pages of partially-redacted FBI records were released to the public. For more information, see EPIC v. FBI - Stingray / Cell Site Simulator.
- Leahy FOIA Reform Bill Passes in Senate » (Dec. 9, 2014)
The Senate has unanimously passed the Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2014. (Outline of bill.) The bill, cosponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), requires Federal agencies to operate under a "presumption of openness." "The FOIA Improvement Act will help open the government to all Americans by placing an emphasis on openness and transparency, rather than allowing agencies simply to hide behind exemptions," Leahy and Cornyn said in a joint statement. The FOIA Improvement Act will also close a loophole that agencies have used to make requesters pay excessive fees, even when the agency takes years to process the request. EPIC has recommended many of these reforms, including changes to the "(b)(5)" exemption for agency memos. The bill goes next to the House for consideration. For more information, see EPIC: FOIA and FOIA.ROCKS.
- EPIC Pursues Information About "Hemisphere," Massive Phone Record Database » (Dec. 3, 2014)
EPIC has filed a motion for summary judgment in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration. More than a year ago, EPIC sought documents from the agency concerning "Hemisphere," a massive AT&T call records database available to government agents. EPIC asked for the legal basis and privacy impact of the program. After the agency failed to respond to the request, EPIC filed a lawsuit. The DEA then produced several hundred pages of records. However, almost all were entirely redacted. EPIC now contends that the agency has failed to comply with the law. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DEA - Hemisphere and EPIC: Freedom of Information Act.
- EPIC FOIA Case - Army Blimps over Washington Loaded with Surveillance Gear, Cost $1.6 Billion » (Aug. 29, 2014)
EPIC has received substantial new information about the surveillance blimps, now deployed over Washington, DC. The documents were released to EPIC in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of the Army. The documents also reveal that the Army paid Raytheon $1.6 billion. EPiC will receive more documents about the controversial program In October. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. Army - Surveillance Blimps and EPIC: Freedom of Information Act Litigation.
- DC Circuit Rules for EPIC in Case Against NSA, Vacates Lower Court Ruling That Secret Order Is Not Subject to FOIA » (Jul. 31, 2014)
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of EPIC today in a Freedom of Information Act case seeking the full text of National Security Presidential Directive 54, a previously-secret Presidential order granting the government broad authority over cybersecurity matters. EPIC successfully obtained the Directive from the NSA, and the DC Circuit has vacated the lower court’s Fall 2013 ruling that NSPD-54 was not an “agency record” subject to the FOIA. The Directive also includes the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and evidences government efforts to enlist private sector companies to assist in monitoring Internet traffic. EPIC has several related FOIA cases against the NSA pending in federal court. For more information, see EPIC v. NSA: NSPD-54 Appeal and EPIC: Freedom of Information Act Cases.
- Senators Leahy and Cornyn Introduce FOIA Reform Bill » (Jun. 25, 2014)
A bipartisan Freedom of Information Act reform bill was introduced today by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX). The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 addresses chronic problems with overuse of exemptions by federal agencies, excessive fee assessments, and the culture of secrecy. The bill will codify a "presumption of openness" in the processing of FOIA requests. The bill will require agencies to weigh the public interest in disclosure against the agency’s interest in secrecy before withholding documents such as Office of Legal Counsel memos. The FOIA Improvement Act will also close a loophole that agencies have used to make requesters pay excessive fees, even when the agency takes years to process the request. EPIC has recommended many of these reforms. EPIC specifically recommended proposed changes to the "(b)(5)" exemption. For more information see: EPIC: FOIA Cases.
- EPIC Open Government Director Appointed to FOIA Advisory Committee » (Jun. 6, 2014)
EPIC Open Government Project Director Ginger McCall has been appointed to the federal government's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Modernization Committee. The Committee's goal is to advise on ways to improve the administration of FOIA. It will have 20 members - 10 from within government and 10 from outside of government - and will chaired by Office of Government Information Services director Miriam Nisbet. The first meeting of the Committee will be held at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC on June 24, from 10:00AM to 1:00PM. For more information see: NARA: Modernizing FOIA and EPIC: FOIA Cases.
- EPIC Publishes 2014 FOIA Gallery, Highlights Documents Obtained Under Open Government Law » (Mar. 17, 2014)
In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC has published the 2014 EPIC FOIA Gallery. The gallery highlights documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, such as previously secret records about government surveillance of telephone calls, FBI facial recognition technologies, DHS drones that identify human targets on the ground, the CIA's collaboration with the New York Police Department, and student debt-collectors' lax data security systems. In many of these cases, EPIC "substantially prevailed" and obtained attorneys fees. EPIC routinely pursues Freedom of Information Act matters to promote government accountability. EPIC published the first FOIA Gallery in 2001. EPIC also publishes an authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
- DHS Appeals Ruling in EPIC's "Internet" Kill Switch Case » (Jan. 13, 2014)
The Department of Homeland Security has appealed a ruling for EPIC in a Freedom of Information Case involving Standard Operating Procedure 303, a protocol which describes the government's plan for deactivating wireless communications networks. Seeking information about the First Amendment and public safety implications of the protocol, EPIC filed a FOIA lawsuit against the agency. A federal court ruled that the protocol could not be withheld under the FOIA because it was not an investigative technique and DHS had not established that releasing the document would cause harm to any individual. Therefore, the court concluded, the documents EPIC sought should be turned over. The Department of Justice has now appealed that decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (SOP 303) and EPIC: FOIA.
- EPIC Files FOIA Request with FTC About Facebook Investigation » (Nov. 19, 2013)
EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Trade Commission for documents concerning the FTC's recent "investigation" of Facebook's policy changes. The investigation concerned changes to Facebook’s Data Use Policy that permit the use of the names, images, and content of Facebook users for commercial endorsement without user consent. Following announcement of the proposed change, EPIC and several several privacy groups wrote to the FTC objecting to the changes as a violation of a 2011 consent order with Federal Trade Commission. Senator Markey also expressed concern about the policy changes. The Commission opened an investigation which was then quietly closed allowing Facebook to go forward with the changes. For more information, see EPIC: Federal Trade Commission and EPIC: FOIA.
- EPIC Prevails in FOIA Case About "Internet Kill Switch" » (Nov. 12, 2013)
In a Freedom of Information Act case brought by EPIC against the Department of Homeland Security, a federal court has ruled that the DHS may not withhold the agency's plan to deactivate wireless communications networks in a crisis. EPIC had sought "Standard Operating Procedure 303," also known as the "internet Kill Switch," to determine whether the agency's plan could adversely impact free speech or public safety. EPIC filed the FOIA lawsuit in 2012 after the the technique was used by police in San Francisco to shut down cell service for protesters at a BART station, who had gathered peacefully to object to police practices. The federal court determined that the agency wrongly claimed that it could withhold SOP 303 as a "technique for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions." The phrase, the court explained, "refers only to acts by law enforcement after or during the prevention of a crime, not crime prevention techniques." The court repeatedly emphasized that FOIA exemptions are to be read narrowly. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (SOP 303) and EPIC: FOIA.
- EPIC Comments on FTC's FOIA Procedures » (Apr. 4, 2013)
EPIC has submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission, supporting several of the agency's changes to its FOIA regulations. EPIC applauded the agency for reducing fees for requesters. EPIC also urged the Committee to: (1) update its definition for news media representative; (2) clarify which documents are public information and ensure that hyperlinks to those records work properly; (3) disclose private sector contract rates for FOIA processing; (4) refrain from prematurely closing FOIA requests; and (5) adopt alternative dispute resolution or arbitration when resolving delinquent FOIA fees. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. Last year, EPIC submitted extensive comments to theDepartment of Defense, warning the agency not to erect new obstacles for FOIA requesters. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC Publishes 2013 FOIA Gallery, Highlights Documents Obtained Under Open Government Law » (Mar. 12, 2013)
In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC has published the 2013 EPIC FOIA Gallery. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, such as previously secret documents about cell phone traffic monitoring, domestic drones that identify human targets and intercept electronic communications, Google's interception of WiFi transmissions, DHS monitoring of Twitter, technology that can scan crowds at a molecular level, and the government's use of license plate datas. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of government documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
- EPIC Thanks Congress for FOIA Oversight, Calls for Renewed Attention to Transparency » (Feb. 20, 2013)
EPIC, along with more than 40 transparency organizations, thanked the House Committee on Oversight for sending a letter to the Department of Justice about the importance of the Freedom of Information Act. The open government organizations said "outdated FOIA regulations, excessive fee assessments, growing FOIA backlogs, and the misuse of exemptions are issues that continually frustrate FOIA requesters" and expressed hope that the Committee would share the Department of Justice's responses with the public. EPIC also joined more than two dozen transparency groups in a letter to President Obama, asking him to renew his commitment to transparency and FOIA. The President issued a memorandum on Transparency and Open Government in 2009.For more information see: EPIC: Open Government.
- Congress Challenges Justice Department Commitment to Open Government » (Feb. 7, 2013)
- EPIC Succeeds in Fight Against Protective Order in FOIA Case » (Jan. 9, 2013)
A federal judge has vacated provisions in a prior order that would have limited the ability of FOIA requesters to disseminate information to the public. EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security after the agency failed to respond to a request for documents about a plan to monitor internet traffic. In arguments before the court, the Department of Justice contended that EPIC should agree to a protective order that would prevent EPIC from disclosing documents obtained in the case. EPIC challenged this argument, stating that it was contrary to FOIA law and that the use of protective orders in FOIA cases would make it more difficult for the public to obtain information about government activities. Judge Kessler agreed with EPIC and discarded the protective order requirement. She also chastised the agency for its repeated delays in processing EPIC's FOIA request. The case is EPIC v. DHS, 12-333. For more information see: EPIC v. DHS - Defense Contractor Monitoring.
- EPIC Obtains Documents on NSA's "Perfect Citizen" Program » (Jan. 2, 2013)
The NSA has turned over documents on the controversial "Perfect Citizen" program to EPIC in response to a FOIA request. "Perfect Citizen" is an NSA program that monitors private networks in the United States. The redacted documents obtained from the federal agency by EPIC state that "[t]he prevention of a loss due to a cyber or physical attack [on Sensitive Control Systems, like large-scale utilities], or recovery of operational capability after such an event, is crucial to the continuity of the [Department of Defense] , the [Intelligence Community], and the operation of SIGNIT systems." The NSA claims that Perfect Citizen is merely a research and development program. The documents obtained by EPIC suggest that the program is operational. For more information, see EPIC: Perfect Citizen.
- UPDATED: EPIC Appeals NSA's Withholding of Cybersecurity Directive » (Nov. 27, 2012)
EPIC has appealed a decision by the National Security Agency to deny EPIC's Freedom of Information Act Request for the public release of Presidential Policy Directive 20. The Policy Directive expands the NSA's cybersecurity authority and has raised concerns about government surveillance of the Internet. EPIC's FOIA appeal points to numerous substantive and procedural defects in the NSA's response, and highlights the importance of public discussion of cyber security authority. The NSA has ten days to respond to EPIC's appeal. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity Privacy Practical Implications, EPIC: EPIC v. NSA - Cybersecurity Authority.
- EPIC Urges the Interior Department to Preserve Strong Open Government Rules » (Nov. 14, 2012)
In comments the Department of the Interior, EPIC has urged the federal agency not to weaken the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as it has proposed. The Interior Department is considering regulations that would place new burdens on FOIA requesters by: (1) terminating FOIA requests, (2) denying FOIA requests without providing justifications as required by law, and (3) withholding the identity of agencies to which the Department refers FOIA requests. EPIC said that the Interior Department's proposal would undermine the open government law, is contrary to law, and the views expressed by the President and the Attorney General about the FOIA. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. In 2011, EPIC submitted extensive comments to the Department of Justice, warning the agency not to erect new obstacles for FOIA requesters. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC FOIA Cases Move Forward in Federal Court » (Oct. 18, 2012)
Federal judges have recently issued orders compelling government agencies to produce documents in two open government cases pursued by EPIC. In EPIC v. Office of Director of National Intelligence, 12-1282, EPIC is seeking information about a plan to integrate databases across the federal government, without the legal safeguards typically in place for personal data held by government agencies. (EPIC press release). In response to the EPIC FOIA lawsuit, a federal judge has ordered the agency to disclose the procedures it has established to safeguard privacy rights. In EPIC v. DHS, 12-333, EPIC is L6[seeking documents] about the monitoring of the Internet that some Justice Department officials believe may "run afoul of privacy laws forbidding government surveillance of private Internet traffic." The government sought a 16 month extension. The court has ordered the agency to start producing documents in the next month. For more information, see EPIC - Open Government.
- Appeals Court Hears Arguments in Open Government Case » (Oct. 16, 2012)
The DC Circuit Court of appeals today considered arguments in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Federal Election Commission, concerning an agency's failure to comply with statutory obligations to process a Freedom of Information Act request. EPIC joined with Public Citizen and several other prominent open government organizations in an amicus brief supporting CREW's appeal. The open governments group argued that the FEC's practice conflicts with the plain language of the Freedom of Information of Act and would wreak havoc on open government. For more information, see EPIC, Open Government.
- EPIC FOIA Uncovers Google’s Privacy Assessment » (Sep. 28, 2012)
Through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Trade Commission, EPIC has obtained Google's initial privacy assessment. The assessment was required by a settlement between Google and the FTC that followed from a 2010 complaint filed by EPIC over Google Buzz. The FTC has withheld from public disclosure information about the audit process, procedures to assess privacy controls, techniques to identify privacy risks, and the types of personal data Google collects from users. EPIC intends to challenge the agency withholdings. For more information, see EPIC: Federal Trade Commission, EPIC: Google Buzz, and EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC and Others Ask Supreme Court to Review Controversial State FOI Law » (Aug. 30, 2012)
EPIC, and several other leading open government organizations, have filed an amicus brief in support of a petition for Supreme Court review challenging the Virginia Freedom of Information law, which allows only Virginia residents and news media representatives to access state public records. The amicus brief argues that Virginia's "citizens-only" provision is constitutionally impermissible as it unecessarily burdens the rights of individuals and organizations outside of Virginia. This case is of particular interest to EPIC because state FOI laws are often necessary for oversight of new surveiilance programs. In 2008, EPIC brought a successful FOIA lawsuit in Virginia and obtained documents revealing an agreement to limit oversight of a State Fusion Center. For more information, see EPIC: v Virginia Department of State Police: Fusion Center Secrecy Bill.
- EPIC Files Lawsuit for Details of ODNI Plan to Amass Data on Americans » (Aug. 2, 2012)
EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for details of the agency’s plan to gather personal data from across the federal government. The ODNI is the top intelligence agency in the United States, coordinating the activities of the CIA, the FBI, the DHS, and others. Under revised guidelines, the ODNI plans to obtain and integrate databases containing detailed personal information from across the federal government. The data will be kept for up to five years without the legal safeguards typically in place for personal data held by government agencies. EPIC's lawsuit asks the agencies to disclose the procedures it has established to safeguard privacy rights. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC Demands Evidence of TSA Body Scanner Rulemaking » (Jul. 19, 2012)
EPIC has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the TSA, seeking documents about whether the agency actually intends to give the public the opportunity to comment on the controversial body scanner program. One year has passed since the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the agency to "act promptly" and undertake a public notice-and-comment rulemaking. The agency has not done so but claims to be working on it. In a separate Petition for Mandamus EPIC asked the Court to require the agency to issue a proposed rule within 60 days or suspend the program. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS (airport body scanners).
- EPIC Urges Privacy Safeguards for Defense Department Cybersecurity Program » (Jul. 11, 2012)
EPIC has submitted comments to the Department of Defense, urging the agency to protect individual privacy when it obtains detailed information about Internet users from the private sector. Under current Department regulations, companies are encouraged to provide information about Internet users that may relate to "cyber incidents" and cyber "threats."This is similar to a controversial provision in Cyber Intelligence Information Protection Act ("CISPA"). EPIC recommended that the agency revise the regulations for the "Cyber Security and Information Assurance" program so that: (1) the program remain voluntary, (2) "cyber incident" and "threat" are narrowly defined, (3) liability is imposed on private companies for disclosing excess user information, (4) the Attorney General conduct annual audits, and (5) the agency adheres to federal privacy laws. EPIC also warned the agency to fully comply with the Freedom of Information Act, which has provided the public with important information about network security. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity and EPIC: EPIC v. NSA (FOIA for NSA Cybersecurity Authority), and EPIC: EPIC v. NSA (FOIA for Google/NSA Relationship).
- EPIC Joins Open Government Groups in Freedom of Information Act Case » (Jun. 20, 2012)
EPIC has joined five other prominent open government groups in a friend of the court brief in support of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The organization is seeking to reverse a federal court which held that federal agencies do not have to say whether they will comply with a FOIA request. In the friend of the court brief, the open government groups said that the ruling conflicts with the plain language of the Freedom of Information Act and would produce unnecessary confusion in FOIA cases. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC Asks Ombudsman to Investigate DHS FOIA Practices » (Jun. 4, 2012)
EPIC has submitted a letter to the Office of Government Information Services, asking for an investigation into FOIA practices at the Department of Homeland Security. EPIC explained that the federal agency, which includes the TSA and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, routinely denies fee waivers in circumstances where the agency knows that the requester properly qualifies. By way of example, EPIC cited a recent FOIA appeal in which the agency wrongly denied a fee waiver request. EPIC said that the practice creates additional work for sophisticated FOIA requesters and may, as a practical matter, prevent other requesters from pursuing important FOIA requests. For more information, see EPIC: DHS Privacy Office and EPIC: Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws.
- FOIA "Ombudsman" Releases Open Government Report » (May. 1, 2012)
In response to several demands from Congress, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) has released a long-delayed report with recommendations to improve the administration of the Freedom of Information Act. The report addresses several FOIA processing issues, but doesn't examine the significant issue of delays in FOIA processing and efforts by agencies - such as the Department of Justice - to create new obstacles for FOIA requestors. And OGIS did not address EPIC's pending request to determine whether DHS's practice of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees is permissible. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC Appeals Denial in Surveillance Export FOIA Request; Files Follow-Up Request » (Apr. 27, 2012)
EPIC has appealed a denial of a Freedom of Information Act request that sought records concerning the sale of surveillance technology by U.S. companies to repressive regimes like Syria and Yemen. "The failure to adequately justify the claim that no segregable portions of records exist violates FOIA, especially given the past practice of releasing aggregate data in response to substantially similar requests," the appeal states. EPIC also filed a follow-up request to the Department of Commerce seeking records related to the agency's investigation of companies like Blue Coat Systems, which sold surveillance devices to Syria. Recently, President Obama signed an executive order authorizing U.S. officials to impose sanctions against persons involved in the use of information and communications technology to facilitate human rights abuses in Syria and Iran. For more information, see EPIC: Freedom of Information Act.
- EPIC Pursues Justice Dept. Records of Google Street View Investigation » (Apr. 27, 2012)
EPIC has submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Justice for documents related to the agency's investigation of Google Street View and possible violations of federal wiretap laws. In an April 26, 2012 letter to the FCC In a related matter, Google claimed that the Department of Justice had "conducted and long ago completed its own thorough examination of the facts" related to the Google Street View matter. EPIC had asked the Justice Department to pursuer the matter. EPIC also has a pending FOIA request for the FCC's heavily redacted report on the Google Street View investigation. For more information see EPIC: Investigations of Google Street View.
- Flawed Cybersecurity Bill Passes House, Headed for Senate without Privacy, FOIA Safeguards » (Apr. 27, 2012)
The House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Information Protection Act ("CISPA"), a cybersecurity bill that allows the government to obtain detailed information about Internet users from the private sector. The bill preempts established privacy protections in other federal laws and opens the door for increased surveillance of individuals in the United States. The bill also creates a new Freedom of Information Act exemption, which will reduce government transparency and accountability. Earlier this year, EPIC said in a statement to the Senate that the Freedom of Information Act provides the public important information about network security, and warned that the National Security Agency has become a “black hole” for public information about cybersecurity. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity and EPIC: EPIC v. NSA (FOIA for NSA Cybersecurity Authority), and EPIC: EPIC v. NSA (FOIA for Google/NSA Relatioship).
- White House Targets Use of Technology by Human Rights Abusers » (Apr. 24, 2012)
President Obama signed an executive order authorizing U.S. officials to impose sanctions against persons involved in the use of information and communications technology to facilitate human rights abuses in Syria and Iran. EPIC previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information regarding the export of surveillance technology by U.S. companies. In 2006, EPIC urged the Commerce Department to reexamine policies that allow for the export of surveillance technology to China. For more information, see EPIC: Freedom of Information Act.
- EPIC Demands Details of Federal Communications Commission's Google Investigation » (Apr. 19, 2012)
EPIC has filed a FOIA request for the unredacted version of the FCC's Google Street View report. The Federal Communications Commission announced that it will fine Google $25,000 for obstructing an investigation concerning Google Street View and federal wiretap law. A heavily redacted report released this week revealed that the Commission found that Google impeded the investigation by "delaying its search for and production of responsive emails and other communications, by failing to identify employees, and by withholding verification of the completeness and accuracy of its submissions." But the redacted report also raised questions about the scope of the FCC' Street View investigation. Surprisingly, the FCC concluded that Google had not violated the federal wiretap act, even though a federal court recently held otherwise. For more information, see EPIC: Investigations of Google Street View.
- Coalition Urges Congress to Remove Cybersecurity FOIA Limitations » (Apr. 18, 2012)
An open government coalition has asked House lawmakers to oppose provisions in "CISPA" that would cut off public access to information held by federal agencies. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act would allow the government to refuse to disclose broad swaths of information, otherwise subject to FOIA, that companies provide to the government. More than three dozen groups have signed the petition - including Openthegovernment.org, the Sunlight Foundation, Project On Government Oversight, and EFF. The groups have asserted that the legislation "constitutes a wholesale attack on public access to information under the Freedom of Information Act" and would impede the public's ability to evaluate whether the government is adequately combating cybersecurity threats. In a statement for a hearing on the FOIA and critical infrastructure information, EPIC also warned against new FOIA exemptions and said that the National Security Agency has become a "black hole" for public information about cybersecurity. For more information see EPIC: Cybersecurity, EPIC: EPIC v. NSA, Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
- EPIC Obtains New Details on PATRIOT Act » (Apr. 4, 2012)
As the result of a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained more than 650 pages of documents related to the PATRIOT Act. EPIC had requested information related to the FBI's abuse of PATRIOT Act authorities and documents concerning the 2009 sunset of the PATRIOT Act. The documents disclosed by the FBI include training presentations, answers to questions from Senators Leahy and Specter, and a list of reporting requirements. In an answer to Senator Leahy, the FBI stated that while it would discontinue the use of exigent letters, which the Inspector General had previously noted as a frequent source of abuse, the agency planned to continue its use of the emergency disclosures provision of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. For more information, see EPIC: USA PATRIOT Act.
- Department of Homeland Security Releases Revised Privacy Impact Assessments » (Mar. 23, 2012)
The Privacy Office of DHS has released several revised Privacy Impact Assessments for various DHS programs. These reports analyze the privacy risks of federal government systems. Last year, EPIC FOIA requests regarding a Minority Report-like program called "FAST" found that the DHS had failed to adequately assess privacy risks. According to the agency, the "Future Attribute Screening Technology" program assesses "physiological and behavioral signals" to determine the probability that an individual might commit a crime. For more information, see: EPIC: Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) Project FOIA Request. To order the movie Minority Report from Amazon and support EPIC, click here.
- House of Representatives Issues FOIA Request Management Report Card » (Mar. 20, 2012)
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a "Report Card on Federal Government's Efforts to Track and Manage FOIA Requests." The Report Card assigned letter grades to agencies based upon their "ability and willingness . . . to submit information" to the House Committee about the agencies’ FOIA tracking systems. This information included the requester's name, the date of the request, a description of the records sought by requesters, the date the request was closed, and whether the agency provided responsive records to the request. The Federal Trade Commission was one of the highest scoring agencies, earning an "A+" for its FOIA management. The Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security each received a "D" letter grade for their FOIA tracking systems. For more information, see: EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC to Argue for Disclosure of Google-NSA Agreement before Federal Appeals Court » (Mar. 19, 2012)
EPIC will pursue its Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency in scheduled arguments before the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit this Tuesday morning. EPIC submitted the FOIA request in February 2010, following a widely reported collaboration between Google and the NSA after the China hack. The agency replied that it could "neither confirm nor deny" the existence of records responsive to EPIC's request. A lower court ruled in favor of the NSA, but EPIC has challenged that opinion, and the federal appeals court will hear the case on March 20, 2012. The case is EPIC v. NSA, No. 11-5233.
- Open Government Groups Oppose Cyber Security FOIA Exemption » (Mar. 14, 2012)
Open government organizations have sent a letter to Senator John McCain, opposing specific provisions in a cybersecurity bill he introduced. The SECURE IT Act would create a new Freedom of Information Act exemptions for "cyber threat information" as well as for all information shared with a cybersecurity center. FOIA exemptions limit public access to government information. The organizations stated, "Unnecessarily wide-ranging exemptions of this type have the potential to harm public safety and the national defense more than they enhance those interests." In a statement for a hearing on the FOIA and critical infrastructure information, EPIC also warned against new FOIA exemptions and said that the National Security Agency has become a "black hole" for public information about cybersecurity. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity.
- EPIC Urges Senate to Safeguard FOIA for Cybersecurity » (Mar. 12, 2012)
In a detailed statement to the Senate for a hearing on the "Freedom of Information Act: Safeguarding Critical Infrastructure and the Public's Right to Know," EPIC said that safeguarding FOIA was critical to ensure government oversight and accountability. EPIC described how the FOIA provides the public important information about safety and security, but also warned that the National Security Agency has become a "black hole" for public information about cyber security. EPIC described several NSA programs, including "Perfect Citizen," Internet wiretapping, and even the NSA's own legal authority which the agency has refused to release to the public. EPIC v. NSA, a challenge to the agency's "neither confirm nor deny" response to an EPIC FOIA request will be heard next week by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity.
- EPIC Publishes 2012 FOIA Gallery » (Mar. 12, 2012)
In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2012. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation's watch list guidelines, records of the Department of Homeland Security's social media monitoring program, Google's first Privacy Compliance Report, records detailing the government's FAST scanning program, records of the FBI's surveillance of Wikileaks supporters, and DHS records detailing the use of body scanners at the U.S. border. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
- DHS Privacy Office Releases 2011 Data Mining Report » (Mar. 5, 2012)
The Department of Homeland Security has released the 2011 Annual Data Mining Report. The report must include all of the Agency's current activities that fall within the legislative definition of "data mining." Among other things, this year's report references the Agency's programs to profile individuals entering or leaving the country to determine who should be subject to "additional screening." A FOIA request by EPIC in 2011 revealed that the FBI's standard for inclusion on the list is "particularized derogatory information," which has never been recognized by a court of law. The report also provides information on Secure Flight and Air Cargo Advanced Screening. For more information, see EPIC: FBI Watch List FOIA and EPIC: DHS Privacy Office.
- Congress Grills Department of Homeland Security » (Feb. 16, 2012)
Members of a House Committee today questioned DHS officials about the agency's monitoring of social networks and media organizations for information that "reflects adversely" on the agency or the federal government. Several members expressed support for EPIC's proposal that DHS suspend the program, warning that this activity violates First Amendment rights. New questions also arose when the DHS witnesses claimed that no other federal agencies were engaged in similar practices. According to many news sources, the FBI wants to monitor social media. The House hearing was called after EPIC obtained nearly 300 pages of documents detailing the Department of Homeland Security's activities. For more information see: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security: Media Monitoring.
- EPIC Seeks Public Release of Google's Privacy Report » (Feb. 1, 2012)
EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Trade Commission for the Privacy Report that Google was recently required to submit to the agency. The Commission had previously investigated Google after EPIC filed a complaint regarding Google's Buzz product, which transformed private user contacts into publicly available social network data. Last fall the Commission reached a settlement with Google and, as a result, the company is subject to a consent order that requires it to file regular reports with the Commission. EPIC has requested that Google's first report, filed on January 26, 2012, be released to the public. Because of Google's plan to change its business practice on March 1, 2012, EPIC has asked the FTC to expedite the disclosure of the report. For more information see EPIC: In re Google Buzz.
- EPIC - FOIA Documents Reveal Homeland Security is Monitoring Political Dissent » (Jan. 13, 2012)
As the result of EPIC v. DHS, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained nearly thee hundred pages of documents detailing a Department of Homeland Security's surveillance program. The documents include contracts and statements of work with General Dynamics for 24/7 media and social network monitoring and periodic reports to DHS. The documents reveal that the agency is tracking media stories that "reflect adversely" on DHS or the U.S. government. One tracking report -- "Residents Voice Opposition Over Possible Plan to Bring Guantanamo Detainees to Local Prison-Standish MI" -- summarizes dissent on blogs and social networking cites, quoting commenters. EPIC sent a request for these documents in April 2004 and filed suit against the agency in December. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security: Media Monitoring.
- EPIC Sues DHS Over Covert Surveillance of Facebook and Twitter » (Dec. 20, 2011)
EPIC has filed a Freedom of information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to force disclosure of the details of the agency's social network monitoring program. In news reports and a Federal Register notice, the DHS has stated that it will routinely monitor the public postings of users on Twitter and Facebook. The agency plans to create fictitious user accounts and scan posts of users for key terms. User data will be stored for five years and shared with other government agencies.The legal authority for the DHS program remains unclear. EPIC filed the lawsuit after the DHS failed to reply to an April 2011 FOIA request. For more information, see EPIC: Social Networking Privacy.
- Justice Department Revises FOIA Proposal, But Problems Remain » (Nov. 4, 2011)
In response to widespread criticism from EPIC and other open government groups, the Department of Justice has agreed to withdraw one of its proposed Freedom of Information Act revisions. The section would have allowed the agency to make misrepresentations about the existence of documents subject to the FOIA. In extensive comments to the Department of Justice, EPIC said that the Justice Department proposal would undermine the FOIA and is contrary to law as well as the views expressed by the President and the Attorney General. But EPIC also pointed to proposed changes that would place new burdens on FOIA requesters, make it more difficult to qualify for educational and news media fee status, allow the agency to terminate FOIA requests, and even destroy records subject to FOIA. For more information see EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC to Justice Department: Maintain Strong Open Government Regulations » (Oct. 20, 2011)
In extensive comments to the Department of Justice, EPIC has urged the federal agency not to weaken the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as it has proposed. The Justice Department is considering regulations that would place new burdens on FOIA requesters, make it more difficult to qualify for educational and news media fee status, and allow agencies to terminate FOIA requests, and even make misrepresentations about the existence of documents and destroy records subject to a FOIA request. EPIC said that the Justice Department proposal would undermine the FOIA, is contrary to law as well as the views expressed by the President and the Attorney General. EPIC has an extensive FOIA practice and has recently uncovered documents regarding the FBI's Watchlist and the Department of Homeland Security's "Minority Report" Pre-crime Detection Program. The Justice Department must now decide whether to adopt the changes it has proposed, withdraw the rule, or make modifications. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
- Documents Obtained by EPIC Reveal Government's "Minority Report" Scanning Program » (Oct. 7, 2011)
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained documents from the Department of Homeland Security about a secretive "pre-crime" detection program. The "Future Attribute Screening Technology" (FAST) Program gathers "physiological measurements" from subjects, including heart rate, breathing patterns, and thermal activity, to determine "malintent." According to the documents obtained by EPIC, the agency is considering the use of the device at conventions and sporting events, and has already conducted field testing. CNET first reported on the EPIC FOIA request. For more information, see: EPIC: Future Attribute Screening Technology Project.
- Documents Obtained by EPIC Reveal FBI Watch List Details » (Sep. 28, 2011)
EPIC has obtained documents that reveal new details about standards for adding and removing names from the FBI watch list. The documents were obtained as the result of an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI's standard for inclusion on the list is "particularized derogatory information," which has never been recognized by a court of law. Also, individuals may remain on the FBI watch list even if charges are dropped or a case is dismissed. The New York Times broke the story and posted the documents obtained by EPIC. For more information, see EPIC: FBI Watch List FOIA and EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC Asks Court to Require DHS Disclosure of Mobile Body Scanner Documents » (Sep. 22, 2011)
EPIC has filed a motion for summary judgment in EPIC v. DHS, No. 1:11-cv-00945-ABJ, a FOIA case against the Department of Homeland Security for information about the planned expansion of the body scanner program. EPIC has asked the court to force the agency to disclose documents containing communications with Rapiscan and other vendors about the deployment of mobile body scanners. EPIC has already obtained hundreds of pages of documents describing how the agency is exploring the use of body scanners on people who travel by train, attend sporting events, enter federal buildings, or travel along public highways. For more information, see: EPIC: Body Scanner Technology and EPIC: FOIA Note #20.
- DHS Refuses to Disclose Details of Mobile Body Scanner Technology » (Aug. 17, 2011)
New documents released by the Department of Homeland Security to EPIC indicate the the agency continues to hide details about body scanners. In November 2010, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency regarding the deployment of body scanners in surface transit and street-roving vans. In its latest document release the agency supplied several papers that were completely redacted. As a result of the agency's failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, EPIC has filed suit to force disclosure of the records. For more information, see: EPIC: Body Scanner Technology and EPIC: FOIA Note #20.
- Senate Passes Faster FOIA Act » (Aug. 2, 2011)
The Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), to improve Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing. The Faster FOIA Act will create an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs and provide recommendations to Congress. The bill awaits action by the House of Representatives. EPIC previously testified before the House Oversight Committee about FOIA delays and politicized processing within the Department of Homeland Security. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws.
- EPIC v. NSA: FOIA Suit for Cybersecurity Authority Will Move Forward, though National Security Council Remains a "FOIA-Free Zone" » (Jul. 8, 2011)
A District of Columbia federal court ordered an EPIC lawsuit against the National Security Agency to proceed, holding that EPIC can "pursue its claim against the NSA for wrongfully withholding an agency record in its possession." EPIC's Freedom of Information Act suit seeks disclosure of National Security Presidential Directive 54 - the document that provides the legal basis for the NSA's cybersecurity activities. The NSA failed to disclose the document in response to EPIC's FOIA request, instead forwarding the request to the National Security Council. The Court held that the NSC is not subject to FOIA, but that the NSA's transfer of EPIC's request does not absolve the agency of its responsibility to respond to EPIC. For more, see: EPIC: EPIC v. NSA.
- Senate Unanimously Passes Faster FOIA Act » (Jun. 1, 2011)
The Senate has unanimously approved bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Cornyn (R-TX), that will improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Faster FOIA Act will establish an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests and provide recommendations to Congress for legislative and administrative action to enhance agency processing. The bill now moves on to the House of Representatives for consideration. EPIC testified earlier this year in a House Oversight Committee hearing on the need to strengthen FOIA. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
- Faster FOIA Act Moves Forward in Senate » (Apr. 12, 2011)
The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), to improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing. The Faster FOIA Act will create an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs and provide recommendations to Congress. EPIC recently testified before the House Oversight Committee about FOIA delays and politicized processing within the Department of Homeland Security. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws.
- EPIC: DHS Review of FOIA Requests is "Unlawful" » (Mar. 31, 2011)
EPIC testified today before the House Oversight Committee hearing "Why Isn't The Department Of Homeland Security Meeting The President's Standard On FOIA?" The hearing examined the DHS's political review of open government requests. The DHS "Awareness" program singled out FOIA requests for additional scrutiny by political appointees based on the subject of the requests and the identities of the requesters. EPIC Senior Counsel John Verdi called the program "uniquely harmful" and "unlawful." He pointed to Supreme Court precedent and the additional delay in FOIA processing. Also testifying at the hearing were the DHS General Counsel, the DHS Chief FOIA Officer, and the DHS Inspector General. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
- EPIC to Testify at House Oversight Hearing on FOIA » (Mar. 28, 2011)
EPIC Senior Counsel John Verdi will testify before the House Oversight Committee on March 31, 2011 regarding Homeland Security’s political review of FOIA requests and the effects of the agency’s policies on requesters. The hearing arises as the AP reports that DHS career staff repeatedly questioned the political review policy. This report also follows an earlier release of 1,000 agency documents revealing the long-standing process of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees. In a previous letter to the Committee, EPIC and a coalition of open government groups wrote that FOIA does not permit agencies to select requests for political scrutiny. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
- EPIC Publishes 2011 FOIA Gallery » (Mar. 14, 2011)
In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2011. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including records detailing the privacy risks posed by airport body scanners, agency plans to expand the scanner program to non-airport locations, FBI abuse of surveillance authorities, and the Federal Trade Commission's failure to investigate Google Street View. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
- Supreme Court Affirms Open Government, Limits Exemptions » (Mar. 7, 2011)
In Navy v. Milner, the Supreme Court held that the Freedom of Information Act’s “Exemption 2” is limited to employee relations and human resources issues. The decision overturns previous decisions by lower courts that applied the exemption to broader categories of records, allowing federal agencies to block disclosure of documents to the public. The Court stated that this practice contravened Congress’s intent. The Court emphasized that Congress intended all nine FOIA exemptions to be construed narrowly. EPIC is currently challenging the use of Exemption 2 in its lawsuit to force disclosure of records concerning full body scanners at airport checkpoints. The Court's decision in Navy v. Milner demonstrates that the Department of Homeland Security is improperly withholding information about the scanners from the public. For more information, see EPIC-Milner v. Dept. of Navy, and EPIC: OPEN Government.
- Supreme Court: No "Personal Privacy" For Corporations in FOIA Cases » (Mar. 1, 2011)
In FCC v. AT&T, The Supreme Court held that federal protections for "personal privacy" do not permit corporations to prevent disclosure of government records. AT&T sought to prevent the disclosure of documents the company had submitted to a federal agency, claiming that the corporation's "personal privacy" prevented release of the records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case urging the Justices to reject AT&T's claim. The Court agreed with the FCC, EPIC and other amici, writing, "The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations. We trust that AT&T will not take it personally." EPIC's brief cited the commonly understood meaning of "personal privacy" in the work of legal scholars and technical experts, as well as the use of these terms in an extensive survey of US privacy laws. For more information, see EPIC: FCC v. AT&T.
- Chairman Issa Subpoenas Homeland Security Officials about FOIA Practices » (Feb. 25, 2011)
Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued subpoenas to two Department of Homeland Security employees for depositions to take place on March 7 and March 8. Rep. Issa has undertaken an investigation of DHS’s policy of submitting FOIA requests to political review. EPIC and a coalition of open government organizations sent Rep. Issa and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) a letter supporting the investigation. The political review policy came to light after the release of over 1,000 agency documents revealed a long-standing process of submitting FOIA requests from watchdog organizations to review by political appointees. EPIC has also recommended that the FOIA Ombudsman undertake an investigation of this practice. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
- In Response to EPIC, Justice Department Offers No Public Justification for Data Retention » (Feb. 18, 2011)
In response to an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request, the Department of Justice sent back only heavily redacted documents with no justification for data retention legislation. EPIC filed the request in 2010, seeking the Department's views on he Internet SAFETY Act, which would require internet service providers to retain user records for at least two years. The DOJ publicly supported the Act but has refused to provide a single substantive reason for that support. The Internet SAFETY Act has not yet been reintroduced in the 112th Congress. For more information, see EPIC: Data Retention.
- EPIC v. NSA FOIA Lawsuit: NSA Will Neither Confirm Nor Deny Communications with Google » (Feb. 18, 2011)
In a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by EPIC against the National Security Agency for information about the NSA's relationship with Google, the NSA has replied that "confirming or denying the existence of any such records would reveal information relating to its core functions and activities . . ." EPIC sought the information, including a widely discussed cooperative research agreement between NSA and Google, because the agency's practices would impact the privacy interests of millions of Internet users both in the United States and around the world. The case is EPIC v. NSA, Civ. Action No. 10-1533 (RJL). EPIC has a related release against the NSA concerning the agency's cybersecurity authority. For more information, see EPIC - EPIC v. NSA.
- EPIC, Coalition Urge Congress to Pursue FOIA Oversight » (Feb. 16, 2011)
EPIC and a coalition of over 30 organizations and open government experts sent a letter to Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, urging public hearings on the DHS policy of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees. Rep. Issa has undertaken an investigation of this "political review" policy. The coalition also recommended that the Committee support the Office of Government Information Services, the "FOIA Ombudsman," and encourage the Government Accountability Office to conduct investigations of agency FOIA practices. EPIC previously requested an investigation into DHS's FOIA practices. EPIC said that the FOIA does not permit agencies to sect requests for political scrutiny. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
- EPIC Opposes TSA's Secret Evidence in Body Scanner Case » (Feb. 10, 2011)
EPIC has opposed an effort by the Transportation Security Administration to provide secret evidence to the court in EPIC's challenge to the the airport body scanner program. The TSA claimed that it can withhold documents that it has designated "Sensitive Security Information" and scientific studies because they are "copyrighted materials." EPIC responded that the TSA failed to establish that the documents are Sensitive Security Information, and also that the TSA cannot withhold materials in a judicial proceeding because they are subject copyright. The argument before the DC Circuit in the case is scheduled for March 10. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS: Body Scanners (Suspend the Program) and EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (FOIA).
- Patriot Act Extension Fails in House Vote » (Feb. 9, 2011)
A House vote on extending provisions of the Patriot Act that will lapse on February 28 failed. The three provisions concerned authorizing the FBI’s use of roving wiretaps, granting the government access to “any tangible items” of individuals under surveillance, and allowing the surveillance of individuals and groups not connected to identified terrorist groups. The House bill would have extended these provisions until December. The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would extend the expiring provisions to 2013. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) issued a statement explaining that he did not support efforts to extend the provisions that “undercut important oversight and government accountability of these intelligence gathering tools.” EPIC, through the Freedom of Information Act, recently obtained from the Intelligence Oversight Board, internal reports of intelligence law violations by the FBI that do not comply with Attorney General guidelines for oversight. EPIC has in the past urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to require the Attorney General to report to Congress on potentially unlawful investigations. For related information, see EPIC: USA Patriot Act and EPIC: PATRIOT FOIA Litigation.
- Chairman Issa Investigates "Political Review" Policy at Homeland Security » (Feb. 2, 2011)
Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has issued a letter to Secretary Janet Napolitano demanding that DHS release all documents regarding the agency's policy of vetting FOIA requests through political appointees. Rep. Issa also asked that DHS political appointees appear before the Committee for interviews regarding the policy. Previously, EPIC urged the FOIA Ombudsman to conduct an investigation of the DHS. EPIC said the "political review" policy is contrary to federal law and Supreme Court holdings; the FOIA does not permit agencies to select requests for political scrutiny. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
- DHS Releases FOIA Report, But Questions Remain » (Jan. 24, 2011)
The Department of Homeland Security has released the Freedom of Information Act Report for 2010. The report analyzes the processing of FOIA requests made throughout the year by each DHS component, detailing the disposition of each request, response times, and the number of backlogged requests. DHS is under scrutiny for their policy of referring FOIA requests to political appointees before processing. The release of over 1,000 agency documents revealed a persistent agency practice of flagging FOIA requests from EPIC and other watchdog organizations for referral.The FOIA does not permit agencies to select FOIA requests for political scrutiny and the Supreme Court has stated that neither the identity of the FOIA requester nor the reason for the request is relevant to the processing of requests. EPIC has recommended that the FOIA Ombudsman investigate the Department’s policy. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
- EPIC Urges Investigation of White House FOIA Review Policy » (Dec. 8, 2010)
In a letter (Appendix 1-6, 7-12, 13-18)sent today to the FOIA Ombudsman, EPIC recommended an investigation of the Department of Homeland Security’s policy of referring FOIA requests to political appointees in the White House. Under the DHS policy, political appointees receive detailed information about the identity of FOIA requesters and the topics of their requests. This policy is contrary to federal law and Supreme Court holdings, as the FOIA does not permit agencies to select FOIA requests for political scrutiny. The release of over 1,000 agency documents reveals a persistent agency practice of flagging FOIA requests from EPIC and other organizations for referral to political appointees. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
- EPIC Challenges DoD FOIA Processing Policies » (Nov. 23, 2010)
EPIC filed a request with the FOIA Ombudsman challenging the Department of Defense's unlawful assertion that the DoD has the statutory authority to administratively withdraw a FOIA request without input or consultation from the FOIA requester. DoD made the assertion in response to a FOIA request EPIC had filed seeking documents detailing the agency's agreements with Project Vigilant, a private sector company that monitors Internet Service Providers and provides that information to federal agencies. The FOIA Ombudsman is authorized to review policies and procedures of administrative agencies, review compliance by administrative agencies, and recommend policy changes to Congress and the President. EPIC requested that the FOIA Ombudsman investigate DoD's policies and publish a report of its findings. For related information see Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010 and EPIC: Open Government.
- EPIC Files Suit For Documents Regarding Google/NSA Partnership » (Sep. 13, 2010)
Today, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the National Security Agency in the United States District Court in the District of Columbia. The agency failed to respond to EPIC's FOIA request for documents about an "Information Assurance" partnership with Google. EPIC previously appealed to the agency to comply with its legal duty to produce the documents, but he agency failed to respond. EPIC is also seeking the Presidential Directive that grants the NSA authority to conduct electronic surveillance in the United States. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
- Senators Question Safety of Airport Body Scanners, Object to Program Expansion » (Aug. 18, 2010)
Three U.S. Senators have objected to the Department of Homeland Security's expansion of the airport body scanner program. In a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Senators Collins (R-ME), Burr (R-NC), and Coburn (R-OK) have asked "why the Department continues to purchase this technology when legitimate concerns about its safety appear to remain unanswered." The Senators noted that "the issue of radiation associated with the backscatter x-ray AIT machines has not been adequately addressed by TSA." They urged the agency's Chief Medical Officer, working with independent experts, to conduct a review of the health effects on travelers and airport personnel. EPIC recently submitted a FOIA request to the DHS for all records of tests conducted by the agency regarding radiation impacts. EPIC has also filed an emergency motion in federal court to suspend the program, pending an thorough review of the airport body scanner program. For more information, see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology and EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of Body Scanner Program).
- EPIC FOIA - Feds Save Thousands of Body Scan Images » (Aug. 4, 2010)
In an open government lawsuit against the United States Marshals Service, EPIC has obtained more than one hundred images of undressed individuals entering federal courthouses. The images, which are routinely captured by the federal agency, prove that body scanning devices store and record images of individuals stripped naked. The 100 images are a small sample of more than 35,000 at issue in the EPIC lawsuit. EPIC has pursued a similar FOIA lawsuit against the Dept. of Homeland Security but the DHS refuses to release the images it has obtained. EPIC has also filed suit to stop the deployment of the machines in US airports. For more information, see EPIC Body Scanners, EPIC - EPIC v. DOJ (Marshall Service FOIA), and EPIC Press Release.
- EPIC FOIAs NSA for Details of "Perfect Citizen" » (Jul. 16, 2010)
EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency regarding the new secret cybersecurity program known as "Perfect Citizen." According to the Wall Street Journal, the program "would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack," although the agency has claimed that there "is no monitoring activity involved, and no sensors are employed in this endeavor" but has refused to release the details of the program. In its request, EPIC has sought contracts, memoranda, and other records relating to "Perfect Citizen." For more information, see EPIC Cybersecurity and Privacy.
- Supreme Court to Review Freedom of Information Act Case Exempting Agency Documents from Public Disclosure » (Jun. 28, 2010)
Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Milner v. Department of the Navy a case in which a federal appeals court allowed the Navy to withhold records sought under the Freedom of Information Act. At issue in the case is the scope of Exemption 2 of the FOIA, which permits agencies, in some circumstances, to withhold information requested pursuant to FOIA. The exemption at issue exempts information “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.” Writing in dissent, Judge Fletcher said that the FOIA exemptions "must be narrowly construed." For more information see EPIC: Open Government; EPIC FOIA Manual.
- FOIA Update - EPIC Forces Disclosure of Report on Obama Passport Breach » (Jun. 23, 2010)
EPIC's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department, EPIC v. State, has produced a report detailing security breaches of passport data for several Presidential candidates. Federal investigators prepared the report in the wake of March 2008 breaches that exposed Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain's personal information. Previously secret sections state "the Department was ineffective at detecting possible incidents of unauthorized access," and criticized the agency's failure to "provide adequate control or oversight." Portions of the report remain secret - the agency hasn't fully implemented investigators' recommendations. EPIC testified before the Senate in 2008 concerning the security breaches, urging lawmakers to limit employee and contractor access to personal data. For more, see EPIC Passport Privacy and EPIC Open Government.
- Senate Unanimously Passes Faster FOIA Act » (May. 7, 2010)
The Senate unanimously passed the Faster FOIA Act of 2010, introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), that will establish a 16-member commission to determine methods for reducing delays in processing FOIA requests. Government reports reveal substantial delays in disclosing records subject to the open government law. The legislation seeks to improve the processing of FOIA requests. EPIC frequently uses the FOIA to obtain information about government programs that impact privacy rights. For more information, see EPIC: FOIA Litigation Docket, EPIC: FOIA Litigation Manual.
- EPIC Demands Release of Classified Answers on Privacy and Internet Standards from Cyber Command Nominee » (Apr. 19, 2010)
EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the National Security Agency (NSA) seeking the "classified supplement" that Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander filed with his answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding his nomination to be the Commander of the newly formed United States Cyber Command. Several of Lt. Gen. Alexander's classified responses were to questions regarding the privacy of Americans' communications, and EPIC's request urges the Agency to make the full responses public. EPIC is currently in litigation with the NSA to obtain the secret policy for NSA surveillance authority. For more information, see EPIC Sues NSA to Force Disclosure of Cybersecurity Authority.
- Faster FOIA Act Heading for Senate Vote » (Apr. 19, 2010)
A bill to improve the speed at which the government processes requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), called the Faster FOIA Act of 2010, was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee late last week and has been reported to the full Senate for a vote. The bill was introduced in March by Senators Leahy (D-Vt.) and Cornyn (R-Tx.) and will establish a 16-member commission to conduct a study to determine methods for reducing delays in processing FOIA requests. For more information, see EPIC FOIA Litigation Docket, EPIC FOIA Litigation Manual.
- EPIC v. Homeland Security: Government has Over 2,000 Photos from Airport Body Scanners » (Apr. 16, 2010)
As a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained hundreds of pages of documents from the Department of Homeland Security about the plan to deploy full body scanners in US airports. A letter to EPIC reveals that the government agency possesses about 2,000 body scanner photos from devices that the DHS said earlier "could not store or record images." EPIC has also obtained the most recent device procurement specifications, and several hundred new pages of traveler complaints. For more information, see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging and EPIC: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security.
- Senators Leahy and Cornyn Introduce Bill to Reduce FOIA Delays » (Mar. 16, 2010)
Senators Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn introduced the Faster FOIA Act, which would establish a panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests. Government reports reveal substantial agency delays in disclosing FOIA records. The bill comes at the beginning of Sunshine Week, a national observance of the importance of open government. EPIC makes frequent use of the FOIA to obtain information about privacy issues. EPIC celebrated Sunshine Week by publishing the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2010. For more, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
- EPIC Publishes 2010 FOIA Gallery » (Mar. 16, 2010)
In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2010. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including records detailing the privacy risks posed by airport body scanners, fraudulent "parental control" software, and federal agencies' contracts with social networking web sites. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
- Independent Open Government Audit Finds Mixed Results for Obama Administration » (Mar. 15, 2010)
The National Security Archive at George Washington University has released the results of its annual government-wide FOIA audit. The audit tested agency responsiveness to President Obama's new directives on government transparency and openness. The Archive report concluded that less than half of federal agencies have responded to the new open government directives with concrete changes, and only four agencies "show both increases in releases and decreases in denials under the FOIA." Attorney General Eric Holder spoke today about the administration's FOIA record. For more information, see EPIC Open Government.
- EPIC Seeks Records on Google-NSA Relationship » (Feb. 4, 2010)
Today EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency, seeking records regarding the relationship between Google and the NSA. The press reported that Google and the NSA have entered into a partnership following a recent hacker attack on Google originating from China. The EPIC FOIA request also seeks NSA communications with Google regarding Google's failure to encrypt Gmail and cloud computing services. In March 2009, EPIC filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission urging it to investigate the adequacy of Google's cloud computing privacy and security safeguards. Today EPIC also filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the National Security Council, seeking a key document governing national cybersecurity policy. For more information, see EPIC FOIA Litigation and EPIC Cloud Computing.
- EPIC Sues NSA to Force Disclosure of Cyber Security Authority » (Feb. 4, 2010)
EPIC has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the National Security Council, seeking a key document governing national cybersecurity policy. The document, National Security Presidential Directive 54 grants the NSA broad authority over the security of American computer networks. The agencies violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to make public the Directive and related records in response to EPIC's request. EPIC's suit asks a federal judge to require the release of the documents. Congress is currently debating cyber security policy. For more information, see EPIC FOIA Litigation, EPIC Critical Infrastructure Protection.
- Homeland Security Releases Annual FOIA Report » (Feb. 1, 2010)
The Department of Homeland Security has released the 2009 Freedom of Information Act Report. The report shows that the Department processed over 160,000 requests in the past year, with 27,182 requests remaining pending. Of the requests processed, 11% were granted in full, 60% were classified as "partial grants/partial denials," and the remaining 29% were denied in full. The overwhelming majority of backlogged requests and appeals are pending at the Customs and Immigration Service. For denied requests with processed appeals, nearly 30% were fully reversed on appeal, and another 32% were reversed in part. EPIC currently has two FOIA cases pending against the Department relating to its use of Body Scanner machines. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS, EPIC FOIA Litigation Docket.
- Defense Department Pulls Parental Control Software Product Following EPIC Complaint » (Dec. 4, 2009)
Documents obtained by EPIC, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, revealed the Defense Department canceled a contract with Echometrix, following an EPIC complaint to the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year. According to the documents obtained by EPIC, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service pulled My Military Sentry, which collects data for marketing purposes, from its online store: “The collection of AAFES customer information (personal or otherwise) for any other purpose than to provide quality customer service is prohibited . . . . Giving our customers the ability to opt out does not address this issue.” For more information, see EPIC: In re Echometrix.
- EPIC Files Appeal for NSA Policy on Network Surveillance » (Nov. 24, 2009)
Today, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act appeal, seeking disclosure of NPSD 54, the classified Directive that describes a National Security Agency program to monitor American computer networks. EPIC submitted the original request to shed light on the extent of the federal government's surveillance of civilian computer systems, but the agency refused to disclose the document. EPIC's appeal warns that the NSA’s improper withholding of the Directive "flatly contravenes" the President's policy on open government and "explicit FOIA guidance promulgated by the Attorney General." EPIC further stated, without public disclosure of the Directive, "the government cannot meaningfully make assurances about the adequacy of privacy and civil liberties safeguards." For more information, see EPIC Open Government.
- EPIC Celebrates International Right to Know Day » (Sep. 28, 2009)
Today, EPIC celebrates International Right to Know Day, which was established to raise awareness of every individual's right of access to government-held information. EPIC is speaking at American University's Third Annual International Right-To-Know Day Celebration concerning opportunities to restore US leadership in government transparency. Recently, the Obama Administration announced revisions to the "state secrets" privilege and increased access to White House visitor records. Both initiatives aim to expand disclosure of information. Last week, EPIC filed papers to force the Department of Homeland Security to comply with federal open government law, citing the President's commitment to transparency. For more information, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC FOIA Litigation Manual 2008.
- EPIC Pursues DHS Official's Public Calendar » (Sep. 18, 2009)
EPIC has filed a FOIA appeal with the Department of Homeland Security for the calendar of the Chief Privacy Officer. EPIC submitted the original request to find out why the DHS Privacy Officer could not meet with privacy groups in Washington, DC. The agency turned over many pages from the calendar, but the entries were all blacked out. In the appeal, EPIC said the agency has failed to comply with the open government law and also cited the President's commitment to government transparency concerning the activities of public officials. For more information, see EPIC Open Government.
- EPIC Forces Disclosure of Government Contracts with Social Media Companies, Privacy Terms Missing » (Aug. 12, 2009)
In response to an EPIC Freedom of Information Act Request, the Government Services Administration released several contracts between the federal government and web 2.0 companies, including agreements with Blip.tv, Blist, Google (YouTube), Yahoo (Flickr), and MySpace. EPIC also obtained amendments to agreements with Facebook, Slideshare.net, Vimeo.com, and AddThis.com. The contracts do not address the privacy obligations of social media companies. The GSA letter to EPIC explained that “no specific Web 2.0 guidance currently exists,” but provided EPIC with Training Slides that raise privacy issues. The GSA Agreement with Google actually states that, “to the extent any rules or guidelines exist prohibiting the use of persistent cookies in connection with Provider Content applies to Google, Provider expressly waives those rules or guidelines as they may apply to Google.” Some of the agreements also permit companies to track users of government web sites for advertising purposes. For more information see EPIC Social Network Privacy, EPIC Facebook, and EPIC Cloud Computing.
- White House Seeks Comments on Web Tracking, EPIC Urges Ban be Maintained on Persistent Identifiers » (Jul. 27, 2009)
The Office of Management and Budget is seeking public comments on the use of Web tracking techniques on federal government websites. Government agencies are currently prohibited from using persistent identifiers, such as cookies, except when there is a compelling need. EPIC, in comments to the President's Office of Science & Technology, said that the government should not track users who are seeking online access to public information. EPIC is also pursuing a FOIA request concerning the transfer of personal information collected by federal agencies to private vendors. Comments are due to OMB by Aug. 10, 2009. Suggestions may also be submitted at the OSTP blog. For more information on persistent tracking, see EPIC Cookies.
- EPIC Endorses Better Approaches on Government Transparency » (Jun. 3, 2009)
In response to President Obama's plan to develop a new open government policy, EPIC submitted comments recommending that users are not tracked on government sites; promoting open government; allowing meaningful public participation in government decisions; stopping commercialization of personal data; and the application of Privacy Act to all data collected by the Government. See also EPIC's page on Open Government and consider purchasing EPIC's FOIA litigation manual.
- White House Seeks User Comments on Government Transparency » (May. 21, 2009)
The White House is seeking public comments on the open government proposal. President Obama's memorandum on Transparency and Open Government directed the Chief Technology Officer, the Office of Management and Budget, and the General Services Administration to develop these recommendations. The Open Government Directive will instruct executive departments and agencies on specific actions to implement transparency principles. The first phase of the initiative involves an online brainstorming session and comments are due by May 28, 2009. To learn more about transparency and open government, consider purchasing EPIC's FOIA litigation manual.
- EPIC Seeks Government Agreements with Social Networking Companies » (Apr. 30, 2009)
EPIC submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Government Services Administration seeking agency records concerning agreements the GSA negotiated between federal agencies and social networking services, including Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, and Facebook. In the FOIA request, EPIC is asking for the public release of the contracts and any legal opinions concerning the application of the Privacy Act of 1974 and Freedom of Information Act to the services that collect information on citizens. For more information see EPIC’s pages Social Networking, Facebook, and Cloud Computing.
- Senate to Investigate NSA "Overcollection" » (Apr. 17, 2009)
Senator Dianne Feinstein has announced that the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the National Security Agency's interception of phone calls and private e-mail messages of Americans. Recently, the New York Times reported that the NSA's activities went beyond the legal limits established by the Congress last year. EPIC has a related lawsuit asking a federal court to force the release of memos on the legal authority for domestic surveillance of American citizens. For more information, see EPIC's page on Freedom of Information Act Work on the National Security Agency's Warrantless Surveillance Program.
- EPIC Demands Disclosure of Documents Detailing "Virtual Strip Search" Airport Scanners » (Apr. 14, 2009)
Today, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding disclosure of records detailing airport scanners that take naked pictures of American travelers. Security experts describe the "whole body imaging" scanners as virtual strip searches. The Transportation Security Administration plans to make the scans mandatory at all airport security checkpoints, despite prior assurances that whole body imaging would be optional. EPIC's request seeks documents concerning the agency's ability to store and transmit detailed images of naked U.S. citizens. For more information, see EPIC's Whole Body Imaging page and EPIC's FOIA Litigation Manual.
- Attorney General Issues New FOIA Guidelines » (Mar. 19, 2009)
The Attorney General today set out new Freedom of Information guidelines pursuant to President Obama's memorandum directing all executive branch departments and agencies to maintain a presumption of openness in releasing information requested from them. In the memorandum, the Attorney General strongly encouraged agencies to make discretionary disclosures of information to the fullest extent possible. Rescinding the FOIA Memorandum of October 12, 2001, the Attorney General stated that the Justice Department will defend a FOIA request only if the disclosure would harm an interest protected by a statutory exemption or its disclosure is prohibited by law. The memorandum also directs that each agency is fully accountable for its administration of FOIA and should be mindful of their obligation to work "in a spirit of cooperation." For more information, see EPIC's Open Government page.
- EPIC v. DOJ - EPIC Urges Court to Require Disclosure of Warrantless Wiretap Memos » (Mar. 6, 2009)
EPIC, the ACLU, and the National Security Archive asked a federal court in Washington, DC to order the immediate disclosure of government memos describing the legal basis for the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens by the Bush Administration. The court is currently reviewing the documents, prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel, as part of an EPIC Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. This week, the Attorney General released several related memos, which previously were secret. The new release follows President Obama's recent statement on government transparency. "The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails," the President said. For more information, see EPIC v. DOJ.
- EPIC, Freedom of Information Advocates Endorse President » (Jan. 29, 2009)
EPIC joined Freedom of Information advocates from around the world in an Open Letter welcoming "President Obama's Initiative on Transparency." The organizations also supported the President's call for a "clear presumption in favor of disclosure of information." They called on "governments around the world to take similar action to promote transparency and respect for the right of access to information." For more information about open government, see EPIC's Open Government manual.
- President Obama Issues New Orders on FOIA » (Jan. 21, 2009)
In his first 24 hours in Office, President Obama issued a series of Executive Orders. One of the Orders dealt with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) activity of federal government agencies. He stated that prior FOIA rules were governed by a "defensible argument" for not disclosing information to the public. The President said that, "Starting today, every agency and department should know that his administration stands on the side, not of those who seek to withhold information, but with those who seek to make it known." In other initiatives President Obama issued a suspension of legal proceedings against detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay. For more information, see EPIC's page on Former Secrets.
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