April 9, 2002
Senator Robert C. Byrd
Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee
311 Hart Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4801
Fax: (202) 228-0002
Senator Ted Stevens
Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Committee
522 Hart Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-0201
Fax: (202) 224-2354
Re: Statement for Hearings on Homeland Security Budget
Dear Senators Byrd and Stevens,
We write to express our support for your hearings on the President’s homeland security budget and our hope that the public will have the opportunity to hear testimony from the Office of Homeland Security in the near future. The OHS may soon be responsible for directing a 38 billion dollar budget. We share your concern that the significant new powers allocated to the OHS require meaningful public oversight.
Congressional oversight of the OHS goes hand in hand with the opportunity for public oversight through the Freedom of Information Act. On March 20, 2002 the Electronic Privacy Information Center submitted a FOIA request to the OHS requesting records concerning the agency’s efforts to develop a system of National identification. We submitted this request because of the significant implications for privacy and civil liberties in America if such a system were deployed, and because we believe that the OHS should be subject to the same open record laws that govern other federal agencies that engage in substantial policymaking.
Despite a statutory obligation to render a decision on an expedited request within 10 days, the OHS has not responded to EPIC's request. As a result, EPIC filed suit in the District Court for the District of Columbia seeking the disclosure of these records (EPIC v. OHS, Civil Action No. 06-0260). It is imperative that the OHS comply with the Freedom of Information Act, a law that helps ensure the preservation of open government and the protection of the constitutional values of the United States.
We request that this letter and attached complaint be placed in the hearing record.