A transparent Government is essential in a democratic society. American citizens, as taxpayers, deserve to know what their Government is doing with their money. And, equally important, Americans are entitled to know whether the Government is storing their personal information in a searchable database, and, if so, what this information says.
Fortunately, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides a mechanism for us to find out what the Government is up to. Subject to several exceptions, anybody is allowed to ask the Government to disclose their records. It does not matter why a person wants to see the Government’s records. FOIA applies to any and all federal agencies. And, best of all, Congress has mandated that the Government use a “presumption of openness” when determining whether a record must be disclosed. All you have to do is ask.
The Privacy Act, among other uses, enables a person to see the Government’s records pertaining to him/her that are stored in any database. Anybody can petition any federal agency to examine the records connected to his/her personally identifiable information. All you have to do is ask.
FOIA and the Privacy Act are not optional. All federal agencies are bound by law to provide a timely response to any request you make. If it is going to take an unusually long time to gather the pertinent records, the agency must tell you why. And if they fail to comply with these laws, you can sue the Government.
When CBP revokes your Global Entry or SENTRI privileges, you are entitled to know why. When CBP denies your TWIC or HME request, you are entitled to know why. CBP will send you a letter, but their justification may be vague, ambiguous, or even untrue. If that is the case, it is imperative to utilize FOIA and the Privacy Act to find out why CBP revoked your privileges or denied your TWIC or HME request. After all, how can you refute a false accusation if you don’t know what the accusation is in the first place?
You have the right to know why the Government is withholding what you are entitled to, and we can help you utilize these laws that were designed to protect us all and ensure that our Government remains transparent and accountable to the people. For more information or for a consultation, you can contact us here.