Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

U.S. Customs and Border Protection civil servants at it again

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 6, 2010

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection civil servants have now responded to my FOIA request by releasing the 11 page report about their detention of Somali refugee(s) in Grand Forks – albeit the report is almost completely redacted. Apparently I am no longer considered a “commercial entity”, the excuse they used to delay release of the report for a month-and-a-half. I asked them what reason they had to ever consider me a commercial entity, and no response. They simply released the report suddenly and don’t answer the question.

Notice that one excuse used for the hundreds of redactions is that it would pose an “undo invasion of people’s privacy.” Yet they have even redacted the number of arrests, whether the person/people were male or female, and his/her/their citizenship status. How on earth would any of that be an undo invasion of privacy? It wouldn’t. We would have no way of knowing who the person/people are. If this public agency was operating on the up and up they would only have removed information that would show a person’s/people’s identity, e.g. name, address, date of birth, social security number, etc.

What we obviously have here is what we have seen at other government agencies — violation of U.S. laws (e.g. the Freedom of Information Act) simply to protect their own public servant hides and to avoid any accountability to the public, rather than protecting information that truly needs to be withheld. In other words, these government workers have a private interest in the information being hidden from the public, rather than any real public interest. That’s your money.

Remaining unanswered is why the Grand Forks Police asked for identification from members of the public who were merely watching the police at work. Also unanswered is why the U.S. Customs and Border Protection would then detain a person or people who had not engaged in any suspicious activity, let alone any illegal activity.

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