Department of Homeland Security Contracts/MOUs with Vigilant Solutions

Dustin Slaughter filed this request with the Department of Homeland Security of the United States of America.
Tracking # 2014FOIA11926--OPLA14-1179
Status
Completed

Communications

From: Dustin Slaughter

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

Any and all contracts and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between the Department of Homeland Security and Vigilant Solutions regarding the "National Vehicle Location Service" (NVLS) and Vigilant's LEARN License Plate Recognition (LPR) Enterprise Intelligence platform.

The time frame for this request should encompass 1 January 2005 up to and including the date that this request is officially processed.

This request is not meant to be exclusive of any other records which, though not specifically requested, would have a reasonable relationship to the subject matter of this request.

If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act. I will also expect to be provided with all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. Please separately state your reasons for not invoking your discretionary powers to release the requested documents in the public interest.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Dustin Slaughter

From: Department of Homeland Security

A letter stating the request for reduced or waived fees has been rejected.

From: Department of Homeland Security

An acknowledgement letter, stating the request is being processed.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Feb. 22, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: Dustin Slaughter

Dear Miss Pavlik-Keenan,

Please consider this my formal appeal to your office's 11 March 2014 fee waiver denial. It is quite clear that your apparent blanket denial is incorrect in every conceivable manner, as this appeal will address.

The agency utterly fails to cite any concrete reason for denying a fee waiver. Simply listing statutory language contained in 6 CFR 5.11(k)(2) with no further explanation is not sufficient. In fact, your response states:

"Based on my review of your February 22, 2014 letter and for the reasons stated herein, I have determined that your fee waiver request is deficient because [left blank]."

Secondly, while it is correct that requesters "bear the burden under the FOIA of showing that the fee waiver requirements have been met", your office incorrectly characterizes, either willfully or by mistake, Muckrock's mission. Muckrock is a news-gathering entity, not a commercial one, as their mission statement makes abundantly clear:

"MuckRock's unique form of investigative and accountability journalism has been recognized by the Sunlight Foundation, The Freedom of the Press Foundation, and hundreds of local and national news outlets for its groundbreaking work in areas such as government spending, surveillance, and public safety.

In addition, MuckRock works with journalists to help conceive, pursue, and publish original stories on issues that matter with exclusive primary materials obtained via public records law."

https://www.muckrock.com/about/

Furthermore, this requester is indeed a researcher and representative of the news media, having been published by a number of outlets: https://dustinslaughter.contently.com/.

Now that I have addressed (5) and (6) - the "commercial" aspects of your agency's litmus test for fee waivers - I will address the remaining points:

Regarding (1) and (2): It is baffling why your agency believes government contracting activity with private entities for the purpose of establishing a nationwide license plate tracking program doesn't pertain to "the operations or activities of the government." The nature of this request obviously seeks records concerning government operations and activity; it would then follow that disclosure of said material also contributes "to an understanding of government operations or activities."

Regarding (3): Making documents regarding a potentially unprecedented nationwide license plate tracking system publicly available should, in and of itself, be enough to meet your agency's threshold for contributing "to the understanding of the public at large, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester or a narrow segment of interested persons."

Indeed, the fact that news outlets including the Washington Post, CBS News, Fox News, and major legal advocacy organizations such as the ACLU and EFF, have consistently reported on - and expressed concern over - ALPR-related issues including civil liberties, should preclude agency assumptions that this information might be limited to "individual understanding of the requester or a narrow segment of interested persons."

Regarding (4): Government contracting activity pertaining to a nationwide license plate tracking program should, whether said program is discontinued or not, be considered a "significant" contribution to the public's "understanding of government operations or activities." To reiterate, this subject matter is important enough that major media outlets saw fit to publish and broadcast stories on this government activity.

I believe this appeal satisfies all thresholds for your agency to reconsider waiving fees for my request.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to your final determination within the time frame mandated by statute.

Sincerely,
Dustin Slaughter

From: Department of Homeland Security

A letter stating that the request appeal has been received and is being processed.

From: Department of Homeland Security

An interim response, stating the request is being processed.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Feb. 22, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #2014FOIA11926--OPLA14-1179.

Thank you for your help.

From: Department of Homeland Security

A letter stating that the request appeal has been rejected.

From: Dustin Slaughter

To Whom It May Concern:

I have received your final determination regarding my request for fee waiver. I will not be contesting your decision.

Please give me an estimated time of completion for this request, #2014FOIA11926--OPLA14-1179, as required by the FOIA statute.

Sincerely,
Dustin Slaughter

From: Dustin Slaughter

To Whom It May Concern:

I am following up with your office regarding case #2014FOIA11926--OPLA14-1179.

Please give me an estimated time of completion for this request as required by 5 U.S.C. § 552.

Sincerely,
Dustin Slaughter

From: Dustin Slaughter

To Whom It May Concern:

I am following up with your office regarding the status of case #2014FOIA11926--OPLA14-1179. Please provide me with an estimated date of completion, as 5 U.S.C. § 552 requires.

Thank you.

Dustin Slaughter

From: Department of Homeland Security

A copy of documents responsive to the request.

From: Department of Homeland Security

A cover letter granting the request and outlining any exempted materials, if any.

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