Aug 02 2010

TSA says all their Standard Operating Procedures are secret

The TSA is still stonewalling our FOIA requests for their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which we presume are among those that have been (illegally) sidetracked and delayed for review by DHS and other administration political commissars.

But after the Associated Press pried loose internal DHS e-mail messages confirming the delays in processing “politically sensitive” FOIA requests and the DHS Inpector General started asking questions, the TSA has responded to a request from Phil Mocek (some months older than ours) for the TSA Screening Management SOP.

Not, of course, that the TSA has actually disclosed any more information about its standard operating procedures. The TSA’s response to Mr. Mocek’s request consists of a blanket claim that the entirety of the Screening Management SOP is exempt from disclosure because it would “benefit those attempting to violate the law” (by exercising their rights?) and “be detrimental to the security of transportation” if disclosed.  Despite having released excerpts from an earlier version of the same document in response to one of our previous FOIA requests, and despite an unredacted copy of the entire document having been posted on a public Federal government website, the TSA now claims that no portion of the current version can be released.

Mr. Mocek’s request had been pending for more than a year before he received even this categorical denisal. In response to his periodic requests for information concerning the status of his request, he was told by the same TSA FOIA office staff who are handling our requests that  “processing” of his request was completed in January 2010, but that the response (i.e. informing Mr. Mocek that his request had been denied in its entirety) was delayed until July for “management review”. According to one e-mail message from the TSA to Mr. Mocek in February, “Your FOIA has been processed and is currently being reviewed by TSA management before a response can be sent to you.” This seems to indicate that Mr. Moceks’s request — and, we presume, our still-pending request for the same document — was subjected to the process of political review and illegal delay described in the documents released to the AP.

[We eventually received a response identical to that sent to Mr. Mocek, denying our request in its entirety.  We have appealed that denial.  To confirm whether our requests were among those improperly delayed or subjected to political scrutiny, we’ve filed new FOIA requests for the documents released to the AP and for all records of the processing of our previous FOIA requests and appeals.]