DHS makes a mockery of Freedom of Information Act
Aug 18, 2011
In response to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit, the Department of Homeland security, headed by ‘Big Sis’ Janet Napolitano, has released just a handful of pages of documents pertaining to the use of mobile naked body scanners, half of which are completely redacted.
The documents were obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) as part of it’s lawsuit to uncover details of a secretive program to install radiation firing naked body scanners in all manner of public places, beyond the nation’s airports, in surface transit and even street-roving vans.
The DHS wrote EPIC on August 8, stating “After further reviews we have determined that some documents that were originally withheld in full will be partially released to you.”
The new documents reveal nothing new at all, however, with entire pages having been blacked out by the agency.
The DHS invokes several FOIA exemption clauses, ironically including one that cites “invasion of personal privacy”.
“The privacy interests of the individuals in the records you have requested outweigh any minimal public interest in disclosure of the information.” the DHS writes.
Redacted: Big Sis has something to hide
“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.” the watchdog responded yesterday.
EPIC’s suit asks a federal court to order disclosure of nearly 1,000 pages of additional records detailing the controversial program – records the agency has repeatedly refused to make public, despite freedom of information requests and appeals over the last ten months.
The lawsuit points to an agency under the DHS umbrella, the Science and Technology Directorate, which previously released only 15 full pages of documents on the mobile scanners, whilst heavily redacting another 158 pages and withholding 983 pages of documents.
In February, EPIC discovered (PDF) that the DHS had paid contractors “millions of dollars on mobile body scanner technology that could be used at railways, stadiums, and elsewhere” on crowds of moving people.
According to the documents obtained by EPIC, the Transport Security Agency plans to expand the use of these systems to peer under clothes and inside bags away from airports.
The documents include a “Surface Transportation Security Priority Assessment” [PDF] which revealed details of conducting risk assessments and possible implementation of body scanners in “Mass transit, commuter and long-distance passenger rail, freight rail, commercial vehicles (including intercity buses), and pipelines, and related infrastructure (including roads and highways), that are within the territory of the United States.”
The DHS maintains that it has discontinued the program, but has yet to provide the proof.
EPIC also notes that the DHS has actively deployed “mobile body scanner technology in vans that are able to scan other vehicles while driving down public roadways.”
“These vans, known as ‘Z Backscatter Vans,’ are capable of seeing through vehicles and clothing and routinely store the images that they generate.” EPIC’s lawsuit notes.
As we reported last year, while the focus remained on the TSA’s use of naked body scanners at airports, the feds had already purchased hundreds of x-ray scanners mounted in vans that were being used to randomly scan vehicles, passengers and homes in complete violation of the 4th amendment and with wanton disregard for any health consequences.
WSBTV reported on once instance of the mobile scanners being used to check trucks for explosive devices at an internal checkpoint set up by Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, and the TSA. Officials admitted there was no specific threat that justified the checkpoint, and although it was labeled a “counter-terror operation,” the scans were also being conducted in the name of “safety”.
As several states continue attempts to fight back against TSA airport tyranny, many travelers are unaware of the fact that the TSA and Big Sis are now roaming neighborhoods and highways with the same invasive technology.
EPIC hopes to fully bring this information into the public domain and should be commended for doing so.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.net, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.