DOJ Agrees To Hand Over Document To EPIC, But Only Because The Document Has Already Been Made Public

from the damn-foreigners dept

EPIC is reporting that the DOJ has finally caved and is handing over a document it requested last fall. The document EPIC sought was the “Umbrella Agreement” between the US and Europe on the handling of each entities’ citizens’ data.

On September 8, 2015, European and US officials announced that they have concluded an agreement, the so-called Umbrella Agreement, which is a framework for transatlantic data transfer between the US and the EU. The proposed goal of the Agreement is to provide data protection safeguards for personal information transferred between the EU and the US. Despite the announcements, neither US officials nor their European counterparts made the text of the Agreement public.

Two days after this announcement, EPIC filed expedited FOIA requests on both sides of the pond for the text of this agreement, arguing (logically) that the people this would affect had a right to know what their governments were agreeing to. EPIC specifically had concerns that the US would offer less protection to foreign citizens’ data than to its own citizens, given that it has historically refused to extend these niceties to those residing elsewhere on the planet.

The DOJ has provided EPIC with a copy of the agreement. In doing so, it hopes to bring to an end EPIC’s FOIA lawsuit against the agency. But the DOJ notes in the letter attached to the agreement that it’s only doing so in the most begrudging fashion. If only its partners on the other side of the Atlantic hadn’t blinked first…

After carefully reviewing the record responsive to your request, I have determined that, as a matter of discretion, this document may be released in full. While this record is likely subject to Exemption 5, which concerns certain inter- and intra-agency communications protected by the deliberative process privilege, given the fact that the European Commission has provided you with a copy of the record and is making the file publicly available on its website, I have determined to release the record as a matter of discretion.

That’s the “most transparent administration” at work. The European Parliament released the agreement on September 14, 2015 — six days after the announcement. The DOJ, on the other hand, held out for nearly six months and is only releasing it because it’s already in the public domain. And it’s arguing that it should still be exempt as a “deliberative document” — using the government’s most-abused FOIA exemption — even when another, larger government agency has determined the document deserves no such protection.

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Companies: epic

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