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Homeland Security

FOIA Exemptions

Exemption 1 – Protects information that is properly classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958.

Exemption 2 – Protects records related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.

Exemption 3 – Protects information exempted from release by statute.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 3:  Information protected by the Critical Infrastructure Act of 2002; e.g.: information pertaining to actual, potential, or threatened interference with, attack on, compromise of, or incapacitation of critical infrastructure or protected systems by either physical or computer-based attack or other similar conduct (including the misuse of or unauthorized access to all types of communications and data transmission systems) that violates federal, state, or local law, harms interstate commerce of the United States, or threatens public health or safety

Exemption 4 – Protects trade secrets and commercial or financial information which could harm the competitive posture or business interests of a company.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 4: Commercially valuable formulas or other proprietary information not customarily released to the public entity from whom the information is obtained.

Exemption 5 – Protects the integrity of the deliberative or policy-making processes within the agency by exempting from mandatory disclosure opinion, conclusions, and recommendations included within inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 5: Draft documents and recommendations or other documents that reflect the personal opinion of the author rather than official agency position.

Exemption 6 – Protects information that would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of the individuals involved.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 6: Social Security Numbers, home addresses and telephone numbers, certain identifying information regarding Department employees.

Exemption 7 – Protects records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes the release of which could reasonably be expected:

  • a. 7(A) – to interfere with enforcement proceedings.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 7(A): Records pertaining to an open law enforcement investigation.

  • b. 7(B) – would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 7(B): Information that could potentially contaminate a jury pool.

  • c. 7(C) – to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of a third party/parties (in some instances by revealing an investigative interest in them).

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 7(C): Identifying information of individuals associated with a law enforcement proceeding; i.e. law enforcement officers’ names, witness/interviewee identifying information.

  • d. 7(D) – to disclose the identity/identities of confidential sources.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 7(D): Identifying information of confidential informants.

  • e. 7(E) – would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 7(E): Law enforcement manuals, records pertaining to Watch Lists.

  • f. 7(F) –to endanger the life or physical safety of an individual.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 7(F): Identifying information of law enforcement officers.

Exemption 8 – Protects information that is contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.

Example of information the Department of Homeland Security may withhold using 8: Exemption rarely invoked by Department of Homeland Security

Exemption 9 – Protects geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.

Exclusions

In amending the Freedom of Information Act in 1986, Congress created a novel mechanism for protecting certain especially sensitive law enforcement matters, under subsection (c) of the Act. These three special protection provisions, referred to as record "exclusions," are reserved for certain specified circumstances.  The record exclusions expressly authorize federal law enforcement agencies, under these exceptional circumstances, to "treat the records as not subject to the requirements of the FOIA." For more information regarding FOIA Statutory Exclusions, visit http://www.justice.gov/oip/foiapost/2012foiapost9.html

The (c)(1) Exclusion

The first of these novel provisions, known as the "(c)(1) exclusion," provides as follows:

Whenever a request is made which involves access to records described in subsection (b)(7)(A) and (A) the investigation or proceeding involves a possible violation of criminal law; and (B) there is reason to believe that (i) the subject of the investigation or proceeding is not aware of its pendency, and (ii) disclosure of the existence of the records could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, the agency may, during only such time as that circumstance continues, treat the records as not subject to the requirements of this section.

The (c)(2) Exclusion

The second exclusion applies to a narrower situation, involving the threatened identification of confidential informants in criminal proceedings.  The "(c)(2) exclusion" provides as follows:

Whenever informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency under an informant's name or personal identifier are requested by a third party according to the informant's name or personal identifier, the agency may treat the records as not subject to the requirements of [the FOIA] unless the informant's status as an informant has been officially confirmed.

The (c)(3) Exclusion

The third of these special record exclusions pertains only to certain law enforcement records that are maintained by the FBI.  The "(c)(3) exclusion" provides as follows:

Whenever a request is made which involves access to records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation pertaining to foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, or international terrorism, and the existence of the records is classified information as provided in [Exemption 1], the Bureau may, as long as the existence of the records remains classified information, treat the records as not subject to the requirements of the FOIA.

 


 

Last Published Date: January 16, 2015

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