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Proposed Rule

Privacy Act of 1974: Implementation of Exemptions; Department of Homeland Security/ALL-029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 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—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 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 August 9, 2010.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by docket number DHS-2010-0034, 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, Privacy Office, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC 20528.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) civil rights and civil liberties staff, including components, as well as staff of components who do not have a designated civil rights and civil liberties office, but who do perform related functions (civil rights and civil liberties staff), rely on the DHS/Civil Rights and Civil Liberties—001 Matters System of Records (69 FR 70464, December 6, 2004) and other component specific systems of records, for the collection and maintenance of records that concern the Department's civil rights and civil liberties records. The system name is being changed to “DHS/ALL—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Records System of Records” to reflect that the system is a Department-wide system of records and that all DHS civil rights and civil liberties records will now be covered by the DHS/ALL—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Records System of Records. This name change, along with other changes to the system, are made to capture the expansion of the overall system of records including the Department Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) as well as component civil rights and civil liberties staff, staff of component offices that perform civil rights and civil liberties functions, and staff of components who do not have a designated civil rights and civil liberties office but who do perform investigative and reporting responsibilities related civil rights and civil liberties functions (collectively referred to as “civil rights and civil liberties staff”). The DHS/ALL—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Records System of Records is the baseline system for Departmental civil rights and civil liberties activities, as led by the DHS Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The Department's civil rights and civil liberties staff advise Departmental and/or component leadership, personnel, and partners about civil rights and civil liberties issues, ensuring respect for civil rights and civil liberties in policy decisions and implementation of those decisions. Civil rights and civil liberties staff also review and assess information concerning abuses of civil rights, civil liberties, such as profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion, by employees and officials of the Department of Homeland Security. The Department's civil rights and civil liberties staff also ensure that all federally-assisted and federally-conducted programs or activities of the Department comply with the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Department's civil rights and civil liberties staff investigate complaints, including: allegations that individuals acted under color of law or otherwise abused their authority; discrimination; profiling; violations of the confidentiality provisions of the Violence Against Women Act; conditions of detention; treatment; due process; and watch list issues.

II. Privacy Act

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. Start Printed Page 39185

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—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Records System of Records. Some information in DHS/ALL—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 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. 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' 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—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Records System of 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.; Pub. L. 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 to Appendix C to Part 5 the following new paragraph “49”:

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

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49. The DHS/ALL—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Records System of Records consists of electronic and paper records and will be used by DHS and its components. The DHS/ALL—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 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 thereunder; 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. The DHS/ALL—029 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 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); (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), and (k)(5). 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) (Accounting for Disclosures) because release of the accounting of disclosures could alert the individual who is 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 individual who is 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 subsections (e)(4)(G), (e)(4)(H), and (e)(4)(I) (Agency Requirements) and (f) (Agency Rules), because portions of this system are exempt from the individual access provisions of subsection (d) for the reasons noted above, and therefore DHS is not required to establish requirements, rules, or procedures with respect to such access. Providing notice to individuals with respect to existence of records pertaining to them in the system of records or otherwise setting up procedures pursuant to which individuals may access and view records pertaining to themselves in the system would undermine investigative efforts and reveal the identities of witnesses, and potential witnesses, and confidential informants.

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Dated: June 30, 2010.

Mary Ellen Callahan,

Chief Privacy Officer, Department of Homeland Security.

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[FR Doc. 2010-16580 Filed 7-7-10; 8:45 am]

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