FOIA Appeal Prompts CBP Release
CBP releases records in FOIA appeal
Wayne G. Sayles |
May 16, 2012
On January 13, 2012, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. §552, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild filed a request for the following information:
1. Any and all documents or communications (including but not limited to e-mails) dating from 1/1/10 to the present concerning the inclusion of coins in import restrictions on Greek cultural goods, dated December 1, 2011; and
2. Any telephone logs concerning conversations related to the inclusion of coins in import restrictions dating from 1/1/10 forward.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) acknowledged receipt of this request on January 17, 2012. They answered the request on February 1, 2012 as follows:
1. ...49 pages were found to be responsive... These 49 pages are withheld under Title 5 CFR §552 exemption (b)(5) Deliberative Process Privilege.
2. No documents were found that would be responsive to your request.
In other words, not a single document was released in satisfaction of the ACCG request. On February 7, 2012, the ACCG filed an appeal to the CBP Policy and Litigation Branch. Among other factors, the ACCG argued that it is inconceivable that an interagency action could be implemented without consequent communication. The guild further argued that it is inconceivable that all material on every document is covered by the exemption stated above.
On May 10, 2012, CPB responded with an eight page letter explaining that although the CBP exemption was technically enforceable, a review confirmed that it did not meet the current administration goal of open access to government. This letter was accompanied by the release of 105 pages of material germane to the original request. Access to government records is vital to the ACCG and its partners in their support of the numismatic hobby. A similar lack of response by U.S. State Department led to an ACCG law suit that wound its way to U.S. Appellate Court and remains in progress pending satisfaction of an Appellate Court ruling that mandated further review.