ICE tries to revoke mobile surveillance records it made public in 2011
A year after Immigration and Customs Enforcement produced records of its requests for Internet and cellphone service providers to share information about customers, the agency asked the Electronic Frontier Foundation to destroy the records.
In September 2011, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the EFF, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, ICE produced records showing that companies such as Comcast and T-Mobile resisted or did not comply with requests for information about their customers.
One document (.pdf) showed that the company SouthernLinc Wireless would not provide real-time location information for a phone belonging to someone involved in an immigration case, though it was willing to provide 1-hour-old location history. In a money laundering case, officials complained that T-Mobile had repeatedly lost several surveillance orders that were faxed to them.
But in September of this year, ICE wrote a letter to the EFF asking it to return those records.
"You should also destroy any electronic or paper copies of these documents," the letter says.
But those documents have been publicly available online for months, including through the federal court system database known as PACER, because the EFF used the records in a lawsuit it filed against the Justice Department.
The documents don't threaten national security or any ongoing law enforcement investigations, says Jennifer Lynch, an EFF staff attorney, in a Nov. 5 blog post.
"Instead, it seems that ICE simply wants to stymie further FOIA requests from EFF as we try to get answers about the government's electronic surveillance procedures," Lynch says.
- go to the EFF blog post