(DHS) Magical mystery tour: Doing the work the Star Tribune won’t do (4)

I set forth the chain of events that sparked my interest in the 2016 MSP International Airport tour for Somalis only in the post “(DHS) Magical mystery tour (and why I need a lawyer).” Last year I sought information from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under the Freedom of Information Act. OCR provided a few heavily redacted pages and rebuffed the administrative law judge when he requested an explanation of the redactions.

Theresa Bevilacqua of Dorsey & Whitney’s Minneapolis office answered my plea for help. Theresa has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on my behalf in federal court in Minneapolis.

I thought at the time the lawsuit was filed that the Star Tribune might take an interest. If asked about it, I had planned to respond that we are only doing the work the Star Tribune won’t do. However, the Star Tribune hasn’t asked.

Because the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official to whom I spoke last year directed me to OCR, I neglected to file a separate FOIA request with CBP. On Ms. Bevilacqua’s advice I did so. In response to my FOIA request CBP produced 29 redacted pages (posted via Scribd in part 3) with claimed FOIA exemptions stamped over the redactions. CBP also withheld 31 pages in their entirety.

I disputed the applicability of the FOIA exemptions cited by CBP in an administrative appeal of the CBP’s response to my FOIA request. Late Tuesday afternoon I received the results of my appeal. Although my disagreement with the claimed exemptions was rejected in its entirety, the appeal has resulted in a much fuller production of documents. Redactions have been undone in part and additional documents have been provided from those previously withheld.

My interest in this matter has been reportorial. I believe it to be a matter of public interest reflected in the attention that many Power Line readers have given to it. I have now posted the letter apprising me of the disposition of my appeal together with the documents produced pursuant to it below via Scribd. I invite interested readers to sort through the documents and readers with more knowledge than I to help us understand them in comments below or by email to [email protected]

As I mentioned in part 3 of this series, I attempted to follow up on CBP’s response to my FOIA request by inquiry to CBP public relations. CBP spokesman Kris Grogan advised me: “Every year CBP conducts numerous events and programs around the country in which civic, religious and community leaders, as well as interested residents, are afforded an inside look at how CBP secures the border at and between ports of entries. CBP is committed to fostering a positive relationship within the communities we live and serve.”

I asked these follow-up questions of Mr. Grogan: Can you tell me what other groups receive annual tours of the secure areas at MSP Airport such as this one? How can I get myself invited? Do you have any reason to think that invitees who don’t pass vetting (such as the disinvited imam) don’t get information from the vetted guests?

Grogan failed to respond in any manner. Something tells me that they really don’t want us to know much of anything about what’s happening here. They certainly aren’t making it easy to find out.

However, a faithful Power Line reader has alerted me to the MSP Airport tour offered this coming October 12 by CBP to members of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Immigration Law section. I signed up for it earlier this week. Assuming I pass the CBP’s vetting, I will report on the tour from the inside — once again, doing the work the Star Tribune won’t do.

357627568-CBP-2017-AP-077218 copy by Scott Johnson on Scribd

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