Privacy SOS

FBI plan to collect IDs from FOIA requesters is just a waste of everyone’s time

The FBI has a new electronic FOIA submission tool on its website. And guess what? It requires that you scan a copy of your government-issued ID card before asking the government to release documents to the public.

As EFF’s Dave Maass writes, you don’t have to give the government a copy of your identification card in order to file a FOIA request. And the FBI’s asking for it might be itself illegal.

If the FBI sticks to its guns on this one, there’s bound to be a lawsuit. And the lawsuit is very likely to force the FBI to stop asking people for IDs when they file FOIAs. It’s also very likely that the people at the FBI who implemented this “papers, please” feature know both of these things to be true.

So what’s the point? Why would the FBI put in place a system it knows will likely be overturned by a court?

In short, because the FBI doesn’t like the FOIA process. Think of this maneuver as the equivalent of a bad guy in a cartoon dumping nails all over the road to delay his pursuer. A couple of flat tires won’t stop the chase, but it will distract the hero for a few minutes.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.