FBI Finally Completes FOIA Request 1,393 Days After It Was Filed; Withholds All 509 Responsive Pages
from the lol-'responsive' dept
Michael Morisy -- founder of FOIA clearinghouse MuckRock -- has been waiting since February of 2012 for the FBI to hand over information on its GPS tracking devices. Specifically, Morisy was looking for information on any devices it deactivated/recollected after the Supreme Court (US v. Jones) declared the warrantless, long-term tracking of individuals could amount to a Fourth Amendment violation.
The decision didn't explicitly state GPS tracking devices now needed to be accompanied by warrants, but it was enough that the FBI began shutting down its 3,000 devices. (It turned most of them back on a month later after securing the proper paperwork. Only 250 or so were permanently switched off. And, of course, the FBI grumbled about having to obtain warrants for devices it had already deployed, because the Fourth Amendment doesn't do anything but slow down law enforcement.)
With that in mind, Morisy asked for this:
Any lists or logs of sites or locations where the FBI has or had GPS units positioned for monitoring or surveillance purposes. If revealing the exact locations is exempt, please redact exempt information and release cities and states where devices are located.1,393 days later, the FBI has finally fulfilled his request in full. While it did spring some stuff loose in April, the remaining disputed documents were finally released 3 years, 9 months and 24 days after Morisy requested them.
If multiple years of logs are kept, pleas release all logs or lists created since 2005, focusing on the most recent or up to date logs or lists.
The pullback of the GPS Surveillance Program was acknowledged by FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann recently. If there is a list, tally or log of GPS devices being deactivated in the wake Supreme Court Ruling U.S. v. Jones, that list, tally or log may be substituted instead of searching for older records.
And what was turned over to him in the final, long-delayed batch were two PDFs containing nothing more than a long list of pages the FBI isn't going to be releasing.
What was released earlier in the year is similarly useless. There's nothing about the GPS units. Almost everything contained in those documents pertains to GPS device training. And even in those, nearly nothing made its way past the FBI's redaction unit.
Still, there are a few hints as to what the FBI thought it had to do to mitigate Fourth Amendment concerns when deploying GPS tracking devices.
Follow this one simple [redacted] trick to avoid having your evidence thrown out!
[In hindsight, the "No supression" note was a bit too optimistic...]
Combine these two items for simple deployment, neither of which is a warrant.
This is the FOIA process. Anyone can play, but the government still holds the cards and deals from the bottom of the deck. Even the long-delayed, fully-withheld documents don't appear to be the information Morisy specifically asked for. One is titled "Manufacturer Materials." The other, "FBI Policy Section 2." Nothing returned in response to this request actually appears to be "responsive" in the traditional sense of the word. And it took the FBI most of four years to finally complete its (possibly purposeful) botching of Morisy's request.