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Proposed Rule

Privacy Act of 1974: Implementation of Exemptions; Department of Homeland Security/ALL-001 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records System of Records

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Privacy Office, DHS.

ACTION:

Notice of proposed rulemaking.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Homeland Security is giving concurrent notice of an updated and reissued system of records pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974 for the Department of Homeland Security/ALL-001 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records System of Records and this proposed rulemaking. In this proposed rulemaking, the Department proposes to exempt portions of the system of records from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement requirements.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before November 27, 2009.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by docket number DHS-2009-0097, by one of the following methods:

  • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Fax: 703-483-2999.
  • Mail: Mary Ellen Callahan, Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Freedom of Information Act 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:

For general questions and privacy issues please contact: Mary Ellen Callahan (703-235-0780), Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Freedom of Information Act Officer, Privacy Office, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC 20528.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its components and offices rely on the Privacy Act system of records notice, DHS/ALL-001 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records System of Records (69 FR 70460, December 6, 2004) for the collection and maintenance of records that concern the Department's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act (PA) records.

As part of its efforts to maintain its Privacy Act records systems, DHS is updating and reissuing a Department-wide system of records under the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a) for DHS FOIA and PA records. This will ensure that all components of DHS follow the same privacy rules for collecting and handling FOIA and PA records. The collection and maintenance of this information will assist DHS in managing the Department's FOIA and PA records.

The Privacy Act embodies fair information principles in a statutory framework governing the means by which the United States Government collects, maintains, uses, and disseminates personally identifiable information. The Privacy Act applies to information that is maintained in a “system of records.” A “system of records” is a group of any records under the control of an agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual. Individuals may request their own records that are maintained in a system of records in the possession or under the control of DHS by complying with DHS Privacy Act regulations, 6 CFR part 5.

The Privacy Act requires each agency to publish in the Federal Register a description of the type and character of each system of records that the agency maintains, and the routine uses that are contained in each system in order to make agency recordkeeping practices transparent, to notify individuals regarding the uses to which personally identifiable information is put, and to assist individuals in finding such files within the agency.

The Privacy Act allows Government agencies to exempt certain records from the access and amendment provisions. If an agency claims 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 for DHS/ALL-001 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records System of Records. Some information in DHS/ALL-001 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records System of Records relates to official DHS national security, law enforcement, immigration, intelligence activities, and protective services to the President of the United States or other individuals pursuant to Section 3056 and 3056A of Title 18, investigatory records related to suitability and Federal service exams and test materials. These exemptions are needed to protect information relating to DHS activities from disclosure to subjects or others related to these activities. Specifically, the exemptions are required to preclude subjects of these activities from frustrating these processes; to avoid disclosure of activity techniques; to protect the identities and physical safety of confidential informants and law enforcement personnel; to ensure DHS's ability to obtain information from third parties and other sources; to protect the privacy of third parties; to safeguard classified information; and to safeguard records in connection with providing protective services to the President of the United States or other individuals pursuant to Section 3056 and 3056A of Title 18. Disclosure of information to the subject of the inquiry could also permit the subject to avoid detection or apprehension.

The exemptions proposed here are standard law enforcement and national security exemptions exercised by a large number of Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In appropriate circumstances, where compliance would not appear to interfere with or adversely affect the law enforcement purposes of this system and the overall law enforcement process, the applicable exemptions may be waived on a case by case basis.

A notice of system of records for DHS/ALL-001 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records is also published in this issue of the Federal Register.

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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: 6 U.S.C. 101 et seq.; Public Law 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135; 5 U.S.C. 301. Subpart A also issued under 5 U.S.C. 552. Subpart B also issued under 5 U.S.C. 552a.

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2. Add at the end of Appendix C to Part 5, the following new paragraph “1”:

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

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1. DHS/ALL-001 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records System of Records consists of electronic and paper records and will be used by DHS and its components. DHS/ALL-001 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records System of Records is a repository of information held by DHS in connection with its several and varied missions and functions, including, but not limited to the enforcement of civil and criminal laws; investigations, inquiries, and proceedings there under; national security and intelligence activities; and protection of the President of the United States or other individuals pursuant to Section 3056 and 3056A of Title 18. DHS/ALL-001 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records System of Records contains information that is collected by, on behalf of, in support of, or in cooperation with DHS and its components and may contain personally identifiable information collected by other Federal, State, local, tribal, foreign, or international government agencies. The Secretary of Homeland Security has exempted this system from the following provisions of the Privacy Act, subject to limitations set forth in 5 U.S.C. § 552a(c)(3) and (4): (d); (e)(1), (e)(2), (e)(3), (e)(4)(G), (e)(4)(H), (e)(5), (e)(8); (f); and (g) pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552a(j)(2). Additionally, the Secretary of Homeland Security has exempted this system from the following provisions of the Privacy Act, subject to limitations set forth in 5 U.S.C. § 552a(c)(3): (d); (e)(1), (e)(4)(G), (e)(4)(H), (e)(4)(I); and (f) pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552a(k)(1), (k)(2), (k)(3), (k)(5), and (k)(6). Exemptions from these particular subsections are justified, on a case-by-case basis to be determined at the time a request is made, for the following reasons:

(a) From subsection (c)(3) and (4) (Accounting for Disclosures) because release of the accounting of disclosures could alert the subject of an investigation of an actual or potential criminal, civil, or regulatory violation to the existence of that investigation and reveal investigative interest on the part of DHS as well as the recipient agency. Disclosure of the accounting would therefore present a serious impediment to law enforcement efforts and/or efforts to preserve national security. Disclosure of the accounting would also permit the individual who is the subject of a record to impede the investigation, to tamper with witnesses or evidence, and to avoid detection or apprehension, which would undermine the entire investigative process.

(b) From subsection (d) (Access to Records) because access to the records contained in this system of records could inform the subject of an investigation of an actual or potential criminal, civil, or regulatory violation to the existence of that investigation and reveal investigative interest on the part of DHS or another agency. Access to the records could permit the individual who is the subject of a record to impede the investigation, to tamper with witnesses or evidence, and to avoid detection or apprehension. Amendment of the records could interfere with ongoing investigations and law enforcement activities and would impose an unreasonable administrative burden by requiring investigations to be continually reinvestigated. In addition, permitting access and amendment to such information could disclose security-sensitive information that could be detrimental to homeland security.

(c) From subsection (e)(1) (Relevancy and Necessity of Information) because in the course of investigations into potential violations of Federal law, the accuracy of information obtained or introduced occasionally may be unclear, or the information may not be strictly relevant or necessary to a specific investigation. In the interests of effective law enforcement, it is appropriate to retain all information that may aid in establishing patterns of unlawful activity.

(d) From subsection (e)(2) (Collection of Information from Individuals) because requiring that information be collected from the subject of an investigation would alert the subject to the nature or existence of the investigation, thereby interfering with that investigation and related law enforcement activities.

(e) From subsection (e)(3) (Notice to Subjects) because providing such detailed information could impede law enforcement by compromising the existence of a confidential investigation or reveal the identity of witnesses or confidential informants.

(f) From subsections (e)(4)(G) and (H) (I) and (f) (Agency Requirements) because portions of this system are exempt from the individual access provisions of subsection (d) and thus would not require DHS to apply rules for records or portions of records which are exempted from access or amendment upon request. Access to, and amendment of, system records that are not exempt or for which exemption is waived may be obtained under procedures described in the related system of records notice (SORN) or Subpart B of this Part.

(g) From subsection (e)(5) (Collection of Information) because with the collection of information for law enforcement purposes, it is impossible to determine in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely, and complete. Compliance with subsection (e)(5) would preclude DHS agents from using their investigative training and exercise of good judgment to both conduct and report on investigations.

(h) From subsection (e)(8) (Notice on Individuals) because compliance would interfere with DHS's ability to obtain, serve, and issue subpoenas, warrants, and other law enforcement mechanisms that may be filed under seal and could result in disclosure of investigative techniques, procedures, and evidence.

(i) From subsection (g) (Civil Remedies) to the extent that the system is exempt from other specific subsections of the Privacy Act.

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Dated: October 20, 2009.

Mary Ellen Callahan,

Chief Privacy Officer, Department of Homeland Security.

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[FR Doc. E9-25933 Filed 10-27-09; 8:45 am]

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