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Proposed Rule

Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program; Privacy Act of 1974; Proposed Implementation

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AGENCY:

Departmental Offices, Treasury.

ACTION:

Proposed rule.

SUMMARY:

In accordance with the requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, the Department of the Treasury gives notice of a proposed amendment to this part to exempt several systems of records maintained by the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) from certain provisions of the Privacy Act.

DATES:

Comments must be received no later than February 16, 2010.

ADDRESSES:

Comments should be sent to Bryan Saddler, Chief Counsel, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Room 1010, Washington, DC 20220. Comments will be made available for inspection upon written request. You may also submit comments through the Federal rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov (follow the instructions for submitting comments).

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Bryan Saddler, Chief Counsel, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Room 1010, Washington, DC 20220, (202) 927-8938.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (Act), Public Law 110-343, established the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and, at section 121 (12 U.S.C. 5231), created SIGTARP. SIGTARP is responsible for coordinating and conducting audits and investigations of any program established by the Secretary under sections 101 and 102 of the Act. SIGTARP's duties and operating authority are set forth under section 121 of the Act, as amended, and the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, 5 U.S.C. App. 3. SIGTARP conducts, supervises, and coordinates audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and related entities.

The Department of the Treasury is publishing separately the notices of the new systems of records to be maintained by SIGTARP.

Under 5 U.S.C. 552a(j)(2), the head of a Federal agency may promulgate rules to exempt a system of records from certain provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a if the system of records is “maintained by an agency or component thereof which performs as its principal function any activity pertaining to the enforcement of criminal laws, including police efforts to prevent, control, or reduce crime or to apprehend criminals, and the activities of prosecutors, courts, correctional, probation, pardon, or parole authorities, and which consists of (A) information compiled for the purpose of identifying individual criminal offenders and alleged offenders and consisting only of identifying data and notations of arrests, the nature and disposition of criminal charges, sentencing, confinement, release, and parole and probation status; (B) information compiled for the purpose of a criminal investigation, including reports of informants and investigators, and associated with an identifiable individual; or (C) reports identifiable to an individual compiled at any stage of the process of enforcement of the criminal laws from arrest or indictment through release from supervision.”

To the extent that these systems of records contain investigative material within the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a(j)(2), the Department of the Treasury proposes to exempt the following systems of records from various provisions of the Privacy Act pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(j)(2):

DO .220—SIGTARP Hotline Database.

DO .221—SIGTARP Correspondence Database.

DO .222—SIGTARP Investigative MIS Database.

DO .223—SIGTARP Investigative Files Database.

DO .224—SIGTARP Audit Files Database.

The proposed exemption under 5 U.S.C. 552a(j)(2) for the above-referenced systems of records is from provisions 5 U.S.C. 552a (c)(3), (c)(4), (d)(1), (d)(2), (d)(3), (d)(4), (e)(1), (e)(2), (e)(3), (e)(4)(G), (e)(4)(H), (e)(4)(I), (e)(5), (e)(8), (f), and (g).

The following are the reasons why the investigative material contained in the above-referenced systems of records maintained by SIGTARP may be exempted from various provisions of the Privacy Act pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(j)(2).

(1) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(4)(G) and (f)(l) enable individuals to inquire whether a system of records contains records pertaining to themselves. Disclosure of this information to the subjects of investigations would provide individuals with information concerning the nature and scope of any current investigation. Further, providing information as required by this provision would alert the individual to the existence of an investigation and afford the individual an opportunity to attempt to conceal his/her criminal activities so as to avoid apprehension, may enable the individual to avoid detection or apprehension, may enable the destruction or alteration of evidence of the criminal conduct that would form the basis for an arrest, and could impede or impair SIGTARP's ability to investigate the matter. In addition, to provide this type of information may enable individuals to learn whether they have been identified as subjects of investigation.

(2) 5 U.S.C. 552a(d)(1), (e)(4)(H), and (f)(2), (3), and (5) grant individuals access, or concern procedures by which an individual may gain access, to records pertaining to themselves. Disclosure of this information to the subjects of investigations would provide them with information concerning the nature and scope of any current investigation, may enable them to avoid detection or apprehension, may enable them to destroy or alter evidence of criminal conduct that would form the basis for their arrest, and could impede or impair SIGTARP's ability to investigate the matter. In addition, permitting access to investigative files and records could disclose the identity of confidential sources and the nature of the information supplied by informants as well as endanger the physical safety of those sources by exposing them to Start Printed Page 2087possible reprisals for having provided the information. Confidential sources and informers might refuse to provide SIGTARP with valuable information unless they believe that their identities would not be revealed through disclosure of their names or the nature of the information they supplied. Loss of access to such sources would seriously impair SIGTARP's ability to perform its law enforcement responsibilities. Furthermore, providing access to records contained in the systems of records could reveal the identities of undercover law enforcement officers who compiled information regarding the individual's criminal activities, thereby endangering the physical safety of those undercover officers by exposing them to possible reprisals. Permitting access in keeping with these provisions would also discourage other law enforcement and regulatory agencies from freely sharing information with SIGTARP and thus would restrict its access to information necessary to accomplish its mission most effectively.

(3) 5 U.S.C. 552a(d)(2), (3), and (4), (e)(4)(H), and (f)(4) permit an individual to request amendment of a record pertaining to the individual or concern related procedures, and require the agency either to amend the record or to note the disputed portion of the record, and to provide a copy of the individual's statement of disagreement with the agency's refusal to amend a record to persons or other agencies to whom the record is thereafter disclosed. Since these provisions depend upon the individual having access to his or her records, and since an exemption from the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a relating to access to records is proposed, for the reasons set out in the preceding paragraph of this section, these provisions should not apply to the above-listed systems of records.

(4) 5 U.S.C. 552a(c)(3) requires an agency to make accountings of disclosures of a record available to the individual named in the record upon his or her request. Making accountings of disclosures available to the subjects of investigations would alert them to the fact that SIGTARP is conducting an investigation into their activities as well as identify the nature, scope, and purpose of that investigation. Providing accountings to the subjects of investigations would alert them to the fact that SIGTARP has information regarding their activities and could inform them of the general nature of that information. The subjects of the investigations, if provided an accounting of disclosures, would be able to take measures to avoid detection or apprehension by altering their operations or by destroying or concealing evidence that would form the basis for detection or apprehension.

(5) 5 U.S.C. 552a(c)(4) requires an agency to inform any person or other agency about any correction or notation of dispute that the agency made in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552a(d) to any record that the agency disclosed to the person or agency if an accounting of the disclosure was made. Since this provision depends on an individual's having access to and an opportunity to request amendment of records pertaining to the individual, and since an exemption from the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a relating to access to, and amendment of, records is proposed for the reasons set out in paragraph (2) of this section, this provision should not apply to these systems of records.

(6) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(4)(I) requires an agency to publish a general notice listing the categories of sources for information contained in a system of records. Revealing sources of information could disclose investigative techniques and procedures, result in threats or reprisals against confidential informants by the subjects of investigations, and cause confidential informants to refuse to give full information to criminal investigators for fear of having their identities as sources disclosed.

(7) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(1) requires an agency to maintain in its records only such information about an individual as is relevant and necessary to accomplish a purpose of the agency required to be accomplished by statute or Executive Order. The term “maintain,” as defined in 5 U.S.C. 552a(a)(3), includes “collect” and “disseminate.” The application of this provision could impair SIGTARP's ability to collect and disseminate valuable law enforcement information. In the early stages of an investigation, it may be impossible to determine whether information collected is relevant and necessary, and information that initially appears irrelevant and unnecessary often may, upon further evaluation or upon review of information developed subsequently, prove particularly relevant and necessary to a law enforcement program. Compliance with the records maintenance criteria listed in the foregoing provision would require SIGTARP to periodically update the investigatory material it collects and maintains in these systems to ensure that the information remains timely and complete. Further, SIGTARP oftentimes will uncover evidence of violations of law that fall within the investigative jurisdiction of other law enforcement agencies. To promote effective law enforcement, SIGTARP will refer this evidence to other law enforcement agencies, including State, local, and foreign agencies, that have jurisdiction over the offenses to which the information relates. If required to adhere to the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(1), SIGTARP might be placed in the position of having to ignore information relating to violations of law not within its jurisdiction when that information comes to SIGTARP's attention during the collection and analysis of information in its records.

(8) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(2) requires an agency to collect information to the greatest extent practicable directly from the subject individual when the information may result in adverse determinations about an individual's rights, benefits, and privileges under Federal programs. The application of this provision to the above-referenced systems of records would impair SIGTARP's ability to collect, analyze, and disseminate investigative, intelligence, and enforcement information. During criminal investigations it is often a matter of sound investigative procedure to obtain information from a variety of sources to verify the accuracy of the information obtained. SIGTARP often collects information about the subject of a criminal investigation from third parties, such as witnesses and informants. It is usually not feasible to rely upon the subject of the investigation as a credible source for information regarding his or her alleged criminal activities. An attempt to obtain information from the subject of a criminal investigation will often alert that individual to the existence of an investigation, thereby affording the individual an opportunity to attempt to conceal his criminal activities so as to avoid apprehension.

(9) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(3) requires an agency to inform each individual, whom it asks to supply information, of the agency's authority for soliciting the information, whether disclosure of information is voluntary or mandatory, the principal purpose(s) for which the agency will use the information, the routine uses that may be made of the information, and the effects on the individual of not providing all or part of the information. The above-referenced systems of records should be exempted from these provisions to avoid impairing SIGTARP's ability to collect and maintain investigative material. Confidential sources or undercover law enforcement officers often obtain information under circumstances in which it is necessary to keep the true Start Printed Page 2088purpose of their actions secret so as not to let the subject of the investigation or his or her associates know that a criminal investigation is in progress. Further, application of this provision could result in an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of the subject of the criminal investigation, particularly where further investigation reveals that the subject was not involved in any criminal activity.

(10) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(5) requires an agency to maintain all records it uses in making any determination about any individual with such accuracy, relevance, timeliness, and completeness as is reasonably necessary to assure fairness to the individual in the determination. Since 5 U.S.C. 552a(a)(3) defines “maintain” to include “collect” and “disseminate,” application of this provision to the systems of records would hinder the initial collection of any information that could not, at the moment of collection, be determined to be accurate, relevant, timely, and complete. In collecting information during a criminal investigation, it is often neither possible nor feasible to determine accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness at the time that the information is collected. Information that may initially appear inaccurate, irrelevant, untimely, or incomplete may, when analyzed with other available information, become more relevant as an investigation progresses. Compliance with the records maintenance criteria listed in the foregoing provision would require the periodic review of SIGTARP's investigative records to insure that the records maintained in the system remain timely, accurate, relevant, and complete.

(11) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(8) requires an agency to make reasonable efforts to serve notice on an individual when the agency makes any record on the individual available to any person under compulsory legal process, when such process becomes a matter of public record. The above-referenced systems of records should be exempted from this provision to avoid revealing investigative techniques and procedures outlined in those records and to prevent revelation of the existence of an ongoing investigation where there is need to keep the existence of the investigation secret.

(12) 5 U.S.C. 552a(g) provides for civil remedies to an individual when an agency wrongfully refuses to amend a record or to review a request for amendment, when an agency wrongfully refuses to grant access to a record, when an agency fails to maintain accurate, relevant, timely, and complete records which are used to make a determination adverse to the individual, and when an agency fails to comply with any other provision of 5 U.S.C. 552a so as to adversely affect the individual. The investigatory information in the above-referenced systems of records should be exempted from this provision to the extent that the civil remedies may relate to provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a from which this would exempt the systems of records, since there should be no civil remedies for failure to comply with provisions from which SIGTARP is exempted. Exemption from this provision will also protect SIGTARP from baseless civil court actions that might hamper its ability to collect, analyze, and disseminate investigative, intelligence, and law enforcement data.

Under 5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(2), the head of a Federal agency may promulgate rules to exempt a system of records from certain provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a if the system of records is “investigatory material compiled for law enforcement purposes, other than material within the scope of subsection (j)(2).” To the extent that these systems of records contain investigative material within the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(2), the Department of the Treasury proposes to exempt the following systems of records from various provisions of the Privacy Act pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(2):

DO .220—SIGTARP Hotline Database.

DO .221—SIGTARP Correspondence Database.

DO .222—SIGTARP Investigative MIS Database.

DO .223—SIGTARP Investigative Files Database.

DO .224—SIGTARP Audit Files Database.

The proposed exemption under 5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(2) for the above-referenced systems of records is from provisions 5 U.S.C. 552a(c)(3), (d)(1), (d)(2), (d)(3), (d)(4), (e)(1), (e)(4)(G), (e)(4)(H), (e)(4)(I), and (f).

The following are the reasons why the investigative material contained in the above-referenced systems of records maintained by SIGTARP may be exempted from various provisions pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(2).

(1) 5 U.S.C. 552a(c)(3) requires an agency to make accountings of disclosures of a record available to the individual named in the record upon his or her request. The accountings must state the date, nature, and purpose of disclosures of the record and the names and addresses of recipients. Making accountings of disclosures available to the subjects of investigations would alert them to the fact that SIGTARP is conducting an investigation into their activities as well as identify the nature, scope, and purpose of that investigation. The subjects of investigations, if provided an accounting of disclosures, would be able to take measures to avoid detection or apprehension by destroying or concealing evidence that would form the basis for detection or apprehension.

(2) 5 U.S.C. 552a(d)(1), (e)(4)(H), and (f)(2), (3), and (5) grant individuals access, or concern procedures by which an individual may gain access, to records pertaining to them. Disclosure of this information to the subjects of investigations would provide individuals with information concerning the nature and scope of any current investigation, may enable them to avoid detection or apprehension, may enable them to destroy or alter evidence of criminal conduct that would form the basis for their arrest, and could impede or impair SIGTARP's ability to investigate the matter. In addition, permitting access to investigative files and records could disclose the identity of confidential sources and the nature of the information supplied by informants as well as endanger the physical safety of those sources by exposing them to possible reprisals for having provided the information. Confidential sources and informers might refuse to provide SIGTARP with valuable information unless they believe that their identities would not be revealed through disclosure of their names or the nature of the information they supplied. Loss of access to such sources would seriously impair SIGTARP's ability to perform its law enforcement responsibilities. Furthermore, providing access to records contained in the systems of records could reveal the identities of undercover law enforcement officers who compiled information regarding the individual's criminal activities, thereby endangering the physical safety of those undercover officers by exposing them to possible reprisals. Permitting access in keeping with these provisions would also discourage other law enforcement and regulatory agencies, foreign or domestic, from freely sharing information with SIGTARP and thus would restrict its access to information necessary to accomplish its mission most effectively.

(3) 5 U.S.C. 552a(d)(2), (3), and (4), (e)(4)(H), and (f)(4) permit an individual to request amendment of a record pertaining to the individual or concern related procedures, and require the agency either to amend the record or to note the disputed portion of the record, and to provide a copy of the individual's statement of disagreement with the agency's refusal to amend a record to persons or other agencies to Start Printed Page 2089whom the record is thereafter disclosed. Since these provisions depend upon the individual having access to his or her records, and since an exemption from the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a relating to access to records is proposed for the reasons set out in the preceding paragraph of this section, these provisions should not apply to the above-listed systems of records.

(4) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(1) requires an agency to maintain in its records only such information about an individual as is relevant and necessary to accomplish a purpose of the agency required to be accomplished by statute or Executive Order. The term “maintain,” as defined in 5 U.S.C. 552a(a)(3), includes “collect” and “disseminate.” The application of this provision could impair SIGTARP's ability to collect and disseminate valuable law enforcement information. In the early stages of an investigation, it may be impossible to determine whether information collected is relevant and necessary, and information that initially appears irrelevant and unnecessary often may, upon further evaluation or upon review of information developed subsequently, prove particularly relevant and necessary to the investigation. Compliance with the records maintenance provisions would require SIGTARP to periodically update the investigatory information it collects and maintains to ensure that the records in these systems remain timely, accurate, and complete. Further, SIGTARP oftentimes will uncover evidence of violations of law that fall within the investigative jurisdiction of other law enforcement agencies. To promote effective law enforcement, SIGTARP will refer this evidence to other law enforcement agencies, including State, local, and foreign agencies, that have jurisdiction over the offenses to which the information relates. If required to adhere to the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(1), SIGTARP might be placed in the position of having to ignore information relating to violations of law not within its jurisdiction when that information comes to SIGTARP's attention during the collection and analysis of information in its records.

(5) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(4)(G) and (f)(1) enable individuals to inquire whether a system of records contains records pertaining to them. Application of these provisions to the above-referenced systems of records could allow individuals to learn whether they have been identified as subjects of investigation. Access to such knowledge would impair SIGTARP's ability to carry out its mission, since individuals could take steps to avoid detection and destroy or hide evidence needed to prove the violation.

(6) 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(4)(I) requires an agency to publish a general notice listing the categories of sources for information contained in a system of records. Revealing sources of information could disclose investigative techniques and procedures, result in threats or reprisals against confidential informants by the subjects of investigations, and cause confidential informants to refuse to give full information to criminal investigators for fear of having their identities as sources disclosed.

Any information from a system of records for which an exemption is claimed under 5 U.S.C. 552a(j) or (k) which is also included in another system of records retains the same exempt status such information has in the system for which such exemption is claimed.

This proposed rule is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866.

Pursuant to the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 601-612, it is hereby certified that this rule will not have significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The term “small entity” is defined to have the same meaning as the terms “small business”, “small organization” and “small governmental jurisdiction” as defined in the RFA.

The proposed regulation, issued under section 522a(j)(2) and (k) of the Privacy Act, is to exempt certain information maintained by the Department in the above systems of records from notification, access and amendment of a record by individuals who are citizens of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence. In as much as the Privacy Act rights are personal and apply only to U.S. citizens or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, small entities, as defined in the RFA, are not provided rights under the Privacy Act and are outside the scope of this regulation.

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List of Subjects in 31 CFR Part 1

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Part 1, Subpart C of Title 31 of the Code of Federal Regulations is proposed to be amended as follows:

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PART 1—[AMENDED]

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

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Authority: 5 U.S.C. 301 and 31 U.S.C. 321. Subpart A also issued under 5 U.S.C. 552, as amended. Subpart C also issued under 5 U.S.C. 552a, as amended.

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2. Section 1.36 is amended as follows:

a. Paragraph (c)(1)(i) is amended by adding “DO .220—SIGTARP Hotline Database; DO .221—SIGTARP Correspondence Database; DO .222—SIGTARP Investigative MIS Database; DO .223—SIGTARP Investigative Files Database; and DO .224—SIGTARP Audit Files Database” to the table in numerical order.

b. Paragraph (g)(1)(i) is amended by adding “DO .220—SIGTARP Hotline Database; DO .221—SIGTARP Correspondence Database; DO .222—SIGTARP Investigative MIS Database; DO .223—SIGTARP Investigative Files Database, and DO .224—SIGTARP Audit Files Database” to the table in numerical order.

The additions to § 1.36 read as follows:

Systems exempt in whole or in part from provisions of 5 U.S.C. 522a and this part.
* * * * *

(c) * * *

(1) * * *

(i) * * *

NumberSystem name
*    *    *    *    *
DO .220SIGTARP Hotline Database.
DO .221SIGTARP Correspondence Database.
DO .222SIGTARP Investigative MIS Database.
DO .223SIGTARP Investigative Files Database.
DO .224SIGTARP Audit Files Database.
*    *    *    *    *
* * * * *

(g) * * *

(1) * * *

(i) * * *

NumberSystem name
*    *    *    *    *
DO .220SIGTARP Hotline Database.
DO .221SIGTARP Correspondence Database.
DO .222SIGTARP Investigative MIS Database.
DO .223SIGTARP Investigative Files Database.
DO .224SIGTARP Audit Files Database.
*    *    *    *    *
* * * * *
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Dated: January 4, 2010.

Melissa Hartman,

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Privacy and Treasury Records.

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[FR Doc. 2010-293 Filed 1-13-10; 8:45 am]

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