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Proposed Rule

Privacy Act of 1974: Implementation of Exemptions; Law Enforcement Information Database (LEIDB)/Pathfinder

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Privacy Office, Office of the Secretary, DHS.

ACTION:

Notice of proposed rulemaking.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Homeland Security is giving concurrent notice of a system of records pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974 for the United States Coast Guard's Law Enforcement Information Data Base (LEIDB)/Pathfinder system. In this proposed rulemaking, the Department proposes to exempt this system of records from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil, intelligence and administrative enforcement requirements.

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DATES:

Comments must be received on or before June 16, 2008.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by DOCKET NUMBER DHS-2008-0003 by one of the following methods:

  • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal:http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Facsimile: 1-866-466-5370.
  • Mail: Hugo Teufel III, Chief Privacy Officer, Privacy Office, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC 20528.

Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and docket number for this notice. All comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.

Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to http://www.regulations.gov.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Department of Homeland Security United States Coast Guard (LEIDB/Pathfinder System Manager), Intelligence Division (CG-262), 2100 2nd Street, SW., Washington, DC 20593-0001; Hugo Teufel III, Chief Privacy Officer, Privacy Office, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC 20528; telephone 703-235-0780.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

Elsewhere in today's Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is publishing a Privacy Act system of records notice DHS/USCG-061 LEIDB/Pathfinder.

In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, the Department of Homeland Security is establishing Law Enforcement Information Data Base (LEIDB)/Pathfinder as a system to meet urgent homeland security and law enforcement mission needs.

The Assistant Commandant for Intelligence and Criminal Investigations (CG-2) identified a need to archive messages for more than thirty (30) days and to be able to perform analysis of the data contained within the messages to support law enforcement (LE) and intelligence activities. Pathfinder was selected and implemented to support the requirement. LEIDB is currently in limited operation. LEIDB is receiving message traffic, however limitations on use of the data are in place. Coast Guard policy restricts LEIDB queries to searches that do not utilize U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Alien PII. Once the SORN is approved and published, new instructions will be published allowing PII searches.

LEIDB/Pathfinder is installed on the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET). LEIDB/Pathfinder contains both unclassified and National Security Classified information. Message traffic originating from federal agencies and managed on the Coast Guard Message System (CGMS) or the Defense Message Systems (DMS) are moved to the LEIDB/Pathfinder automatically and via personnel intervention with e-mail.

Users of the system access LEIDB/Pathfinder data via a web browser interface. The interface allows users to search for data using Boolean searches that are run against the unstructured text in a message. Messages contained in LEIDB/Pathfinder are not machine processed in any fashion to enable data manipulation; they are not normalized or correlated.

The Law Enforcement Information Database (LEIDB)/Pathfinder is a historical repository of selected Coast Guard message traffic. LEIDB/Pathfinder supports law enforcement intelligence activities. LEIDB/Pathfinder users can query archived message traffic and link relevant information across multiple data records within LEIDB/Pathfinder. Users have system tools enabling the user to identify potential relationships between information contained in otherwise unrelated documents. These tools allow the analysts to build high precision and low return queries, which minimize false hits and maximize analyst productivity while working with unstructured, unformatted, free test documents.

The Privacy Act also allows government agencies, as appropriate, to exempt certain records from the access and amendment provisions. Where an agency seeks to claim an exemption, however, it must issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to make clear to the public the reasons why a particular exemption is claimed. DHS is claiming exemptions from certain requirements of the Privacy Act by publication of this proposed rule.

Accordingly, DHS proposes to exempt this system, in part, from certain provisions of the Privacy Act and to add that exemption to Appendix C to Part 5, DHS Systems of Records Exempt from the Privacy Act. Coast Guard needs these exemptions in order to protect information relating to authorized intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, and related law enforcement activities from disclosure to subjects of investigations and others who, by accessing or knowing this information, could interfere with those activities or otherwise place in jeopardy the national or homeland security. Specifically, the exemptions are necessary in order to prevent revealing information concerning intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, or related investigative efforts. Revealing such information to the subject or other individual could reasonably be expected to compromise ongoing efforts of the Department to identify, understand, analyze, investigate, and counter the activities that threaten national or homeland security; compromise classified or other sensitive information; identify a confidential source or disclose information which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of another individual's personal privacy; reveal a sensitive intelligence or investigative technique or method, and interfere with intelligence or law enforcement analytic or investigative processes; or constitute a potential danger to the health or safety of intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, and law enforcement personnel, confidential sources and informants, or potential witnesses.

The exemptions proposed here are standard law enforcement and national security exemptions exercised by a large number of Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Nonetheless, DHS will examine each separate request on a case-by-case basis, and, after conferring with the appropriate component or agency, may waive applicable exemptions in appropriate circumstances and where it would not appear to interfere with or adversely affect the law enforcement or national security purposes of the systems from which the information is recompiled or in which it is contained.

Regulatory Requirements

A. Regulatory Impact Analyses

Changes to Federal regulations must undergo several analyses. In conducting these analyses, DHS has determined:

1. Executive Order 12866 Assessment

This rule is not a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866, “Regulatory Planning and Review” (as amended). Accordingly, this rule has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Nevertheless, DHS has reviewed this rulemaking, and concluded that there will not be any significant economic impact.

2. Regulatory Flexibility Act Assessment

Pursuant to section 605 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 605(b), as amended by the Small Start Printed Page 28064Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), DHS certifies that this rule will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. The rule would impose no duties or obligations on small entities. Further, the exemptions to the Privacy Act apply to individuals, and individuals are not covered entities under the RFA.

3. International Trade Impact Assessment

This rulemaking will not constitute a barrier to international trade. The exemptions relate to criminal investigations and agency documentation and, therefore, do not create any new costs or barriers to trade.

4. Unfunded Mandates Assessment

Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA), (Pub. L. 104-4, 109 Stat. 48), requires Federal agencies to assess the effects of certain regulatory actions on State, local, and tribal governments, and the private sector. This rulemaking will not impose an unfunded mandate on State, local, or tribal governments, or on the private sector.

B. Paperwork Reduction Act

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) requires that DHS consider the impact of paperwork and other information collection burdens imposed on the public and, under the provisions of PRA section 3507(d), obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for each collection of information it conducts, sponsors, or requires through regulations. DHS has determined that there are no current or new information collection requirements associated with this rule.

C. Executive Order 13132, Federalism

This action will not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government, and therefore will not have federalism implications.

D. Environmental Analysis

DHS has reviewed this action for purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347) and has determined that this action will not have a significant effect on the human environment.

E. Energy Impact

The energy impact of this action has been assessed in accordance with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) Public Law 94-163, as amended (42 U.S.C. 6362). This rulemaking is not a major regulatory action under the provisions of the EPCA.

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List of Subjects in 6 CFR Part 5

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For the reasons stated in the preamble, DHS proposes to amend Chapter I of Title 6, Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:

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PART 5—DISCLOSURE OF RECORDS AND INFORMATION

1. The authority citation for part 5 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: Pub. L. 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135, 6 U.S.C. 101 et seq.; 5 U.S.C. 301. Subpart A also issued under 5 U.S.C. 552.

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2. At the end of Appendix C to part 5, add the following new section 7:

Appendix C to Part 5—DHS Systems of Records Exempt From the Privacy Act

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6. DHS/USCG-061, LEIDB/Pathfinder.

(a) Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(j)(2), (k)(1), and (k)(2) certain records or information in the above mentioned system of records are exempt from 5 U.S.C. 552a(c)(3) and (4); (d)(1), (2), (3), and (4); (e)(1), (2), (3), (4)(G) through (I), (e)(5), and (8); (f), and (g). These exemptions apply only to the extent that information in this system is subject to exemption. Where compliance would not appear to interfere with or adversely affect the intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, and related law enforcement purposes of this system, the applicable exemption may be waived by DHS.

(b) Exemptions from the particular subsections are justified for the following reasons:

(1) From subsection (c)(3) (Accounting for Disclosures) because making available to a record subject the accounting of disclosures from records concerning him/her would specifically reveal any interest in the individual of an intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, or related investigative nature. Revealing this information could reasonably be expected to compromise ongoing efforts of the Department to identify, understand, analyze, investigate, and counter the activities of:

(i) Known or suspected terrorists and terrorist groups;

(ii) Groups or individuals known or believed to be assisting or associated with known or suspected terrorists or terrorist groups;

(iii) Individuals known, believed to be, or suspected of being engaged in activities constituting a threat to homeland security, including (1) activities which impact or concern the security, safety, and integrity of our international borders, including any illegal activities that either cross our borders or are otherwise in violation of the immigration or customs laws and regulations of the United States; (2) activities which could reasonably be expected to assist in the development or use of a weapon of mass effect; (3) activities meant to identify, create, or exploit the vulnerabilities of, or undermine, the “key resources” (as defined in section 2(9) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002) and “critical infrastructure” (as defined in 42 U.S.C. 5195c(c)) of the United States, including the cyber and national telecommunications infrastructure and the availability of a viable national security and emergency preparedness communications infrastructure; (4) activities detrimental to the security of transportation and transportation systems; (5) activities which violate or are suspected of violating the laws relating to counterfeiting of obligations and securities of the United States and other financial crimes, including access device fraud, financial institution fraud, identity theft, computer fraud; and computer-based attacks on our nation's financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure; (6) activities, not wholly conducted within the United States, which violate or are suspected of violating the laws which prohibit the production, transfer, or sale of narcotics or substances controlled in accordance with Title 21 of the United States Code, or those associated activities otherwise prohibited by Titles 21 and 46 of the United States Code; (7) activities which impact, concern, or otherwise threaten the safety and security of the President and Vice President, their families, heads of state, and other designated individuals; the White House, Vice President's residence, foreign missions, and other designated buildings within the United States; (8) activities which impact, concern, or otherwise threaten domestic maritime safety and security, maritime mobility and navigation, or the integrity of the domestic maritime environment; (9) activities which impact, concern, or otherwise threaten the national operational capability of the Department to respond to natural and manmade major disasters and emergencies, including acts of terrorism; (10) activities involving the importation, possession, storage, development, or transportation of nuclear or radiological material without authorization or for use against the United States;

(iv) Foreign governments, organizations, or persons (foreign powers); and

(v) Individuals engaging in intelligence activities on behalf of a foreign power or terrorist group.

Thus, by notifying the record subject that he/she is the focus of such efforts or interest on the part of DHS, or other agencies with whom DHS is cooperating and to whom the disclosures were made, this information could permit the record subject to take measures to impede or evade such efforts, including the taking of steps to deceive DHS personnel and deny them the ability to adequately assess relevant information and activities, and could inappropriately disclose to the record subject the sensitive methods and/or confidential sources used to acquire the relevant information against him/her. Moreover, where the record subject is the actual target of a law enforcement investigation, this information could permit Start Printed Page 28065him/her to take measures to impede the investigation, for example, by destroying evidence, intimidating potential witnesses, or avoiding detection or apprehension.

(2) From subsection (c)(4) (Accounting for Disclosure, notice of dispute) because certain records in this system are exempt from the access and amendment provisions of subsection (d), this requirement to inform any person or other agency about any correction or notation of dispute that the agency made with regard to those records, should not apply.

(3) From subsections (d)(1), (2), (3), and (4) (Access to Records) because these provisions concern individual rights of access to and amendment of records (including the review of agency denials of either) contained in this system, which consists of intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, and related investigatory records concerning efforts of the Department, as described more fully in subsection (b)(1), above. Compliance with these provisions could inform or alert the subject of an intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, or investigatory effort undertaken on behalf of the Department, or by another agency with whom DHS is cooperating, of the fact and nature of such efforts, and/or the relevant intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, or investigatory interest of DHS and/or other intelligence, counterterrorism, or law enforcement agencies. Moreover, compliance could also compromise sensitive information either classified in the interest of national security, or which otherwise requires, as appropriate, safeguarding and protection from unauthorized disclosure; identify a confidential source or disclose information which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of another individual's personal privacy; reveal a sensitive intelligence or investigative technique or method, including interfering with intelligence or law enforcement investigative processes by permitting the destruction of evidence, improper influencing or intimidation of witnesses, fabrication of statements or testimony, and flight from detection or apprehension; or constitute a potential danger to the health or safety of intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, and law enforcement personnel, confidential sources and informants, and potential witnesses. Amendment of the records would interfere with ongoing intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security, and law enforcement investigations and activities, including incident reporting and analysis activities, and impose an impossible administrative burden by requiring investigations, reports, and analyses to be continuously reinvestigated and revised.

(4) From subsection (e)(1) (Relevant and Necessary) because it is not always possible for DHS to know in advance of its receipt the relevance and necessity of each piece of information it acquires in the course of an intelligence, counterterrorism, or investigatory effort undertaken on behalf of the Department, or by another agency with whom DHS is cooperating. In the context of the authorized intelligence, counterterrorism, and investigatory activities undertaken by DHS personnel, relevance and necessity are questions of analytic judgment and timing, such that what may appear relevant and necessary when acquired ultimately may be deemed unnecessary upon further analysis and evaluation. Similarly, in some situations, it is only after acquired information is collated, analyzed, and evaluated in light of other available evidence and information that its relevance and necessity can be established or made clear. Constraining the initial acquisition of information included within the LEIDB in accordance with the relevant and necessary requirement of subsection (e)(1) could discourage the appropriate receipt of and access to information which DHS and USCG are otherwise authorized to receive and possess under law, and thereby impede efforts to detect, deter, prevent, disrupt, or apprehend terrorists or terrorist groups, and/or respond to terrorist or other activities which threaten homeland security. Notwithstanding this claimed exemption, which would permit the acquisition and temporary maintenance of records whose relevance to the purpose of the LEIDB may be less than fully clear, DHS will only disclose such records after determining whether such disclosures are themselves consistent with the published LEIDB routine uses. Moreover, it should be noted that, as concerns the receipt by USCG, for intelligence purposes, of information in any record which identifies a U.S. Person, as defined in Executive Order 12333, as amended, such receipt, and any subsequent use or dissemination of that identifying information, is undertaken consistent with the procedures established and adhered to by USCG pursuant to that Executive Order. Specifically, USCG intelligence personnel may acquire information which identifies a particular U.S. Person, retain it within or disseminate it from LEIDB, as appropriate, only when it is determined that the personally identifying information is necessary for the conduct of USCG's functions, and otherwise falls into one of a limited number of authorized categories, each of which reflects discrete activities for which information on individuals would be utilized by the Department in the overall execution of its statutory mission.

(5) From subsection (e)(2) (Collection of Information from Individuals) because application of this provision could present a serious impediment to counterterrorism or law enforcement efforts in that it would put the subject of an investigation, study or analysis on notice of that fact, thereby permitting the subject to engage in conduct designed to frustrate or impede that activity. The nature of counterterrorism, and law enforcement investigations is such that vital information about an individual frequently can be obtained only from other persons who are familiar with such individual and his/her activities. In such investigations it is not feasible to rely solely upon information furnished by the individual concerning his own activities.

(6) From subsection (e)(3) (Notice to Subjects), to the extent that this subsection is interpreted to require DHS to provide notice to an individual if DHS or another agency receives or collects information about that individual during an investigation or from a third party. Should the subsection be so interpreted, exemption from this provision is necessary to avoid impeding counterterrorism or law enforcement efforts by putting the subject of an investigation, study or analysis on notice of that fact, thereby permitting the subject to engage in conduct intended to frustrate or impede that activity.

(7) From subsections (e)(4)(G), (H) and (I) (Access), inasmuch as it is unnecessary for the publication of rules and procedures contemplated therein since the LEIDB, pursuant to subsections (2) and (3), above, will be exempt from the underlying duties to provide to individuals notification about, access to, and the ability to amend or correct the information pertaining to them in, this system of records. Furthermore, to the extent that subsection (e)(4)(I) is construed to require more detailed disclosure than the information accompanying the system notice for LEIDB, as published in today's Federal Register, exemption from it is also necessary to protect the confidentiality, privacy, and physical safety of sources of information, as well as the methods for acquiring it. Finally, greater specificity concerning the description of categories of sources of properly classified records could also compromise or otherwise cause damage to the national or homeland security.

(8) From subsection (e)(5) (Collection of Information) because many of the records in this system coming from other system of records are derived from other domestic and foreign agency record systems and therefore it is not possible for DHS to vouch for their compliance with this provision; however, the DHS has implemented internal quality assurance procedures to ensure that data used in its screening processes is as complete, accurate, and current as possible. In addition, in the collection of information for law enforcement and counterterrorism purposes, it is impossible to determine in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely, and complete. With the passage of time, seemingly irrelevant or untimely information may acquire new significance as further investigation brings new details to light. The restrictions imposed by (e)(5) would limit the ability of those agencies' trained investigators and intelligence analysts to exercise their judgment in conducting investigations and impede the development of intelligence necessary for effective law enforcement and counterterrorism efforts.

(9) From subsection (e)(8) (Notice on Individuals) because to require individual notice of disclosure of information due to compulsory legal process would pose an impossible administrative burden on DHS and other agencies and could alert the subjects of counterterrorism or law enforcement investigations to the fact of those investigations then not previously known.

(10) From subsection (f) (Agency Rules) because portions of this system are exempt from the access and amendment provisions of subsection (d). Access to, and amendment of, system records that are not exempt or for which exemption is waived may be obtained Start Printed Page 28066under procedures described in the related SORN or Subpart B of this Part.

(11) From subsection (g) to the extent that the system is exempt from other specific subsections of the Privacy Act relating to individuals' rights to access and amend their records contained in the system. Therefore DHS is not required to establish rules or procedures pursuant to which individuals may seek a civil remedy for the agency's refusal to amend a record; refusal to comply with a request for access to records; failure to maintain accurate, relevant, timely, and complete records; or failure to otherwise comply with an individual's right to access or amend records.

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Hugo Teufel III,

Chief Privacy Officer.

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[FR Doc. E8-10893 Filed 5-14-08; 8:45 am]

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