Focusing public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues

Government Oversight: Homeland Security

EPIC Privacy Threat IndexThe newly formed Office of Homeland Security (OHS) is pursuing many policy proposals that will have a significant impact on the authority of federal and state agencies operating within the United States. The Homeland Security Director, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, is responsible for a broad range of policymaking functions, including those that implicate the privacy rights of Americans and the powers of law enforcement agencies.

Federal agencies are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), an open government law that helps ensure accountability and public oversight even in matters of public safety and law enforcement. It is EPIC's position that the OHS is subject to the same record disclosure obligations as other federal agencies that engage in significant policymaking.

EPIC is seeking the expedited release under the FOIA of OHS documents that discuss new technical and legislative proposals that could lead to the creation of a national identification system. After OHS failed to respond to EPIC's initial expedited request, EPIC filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. On May 2, 2002, the government moved to dismiss the case on the ground that OHS is not subject to the FOIA. The issue is now being litigated.

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