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STATEMENT OF QUINLAN J SHEA, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF PRIVACY AND INFORMATION APPEALS, OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, BEFORE THE US SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURES

NCJ Number
45637
Author(s)
Q J SHEA
Date Published
1978
Annotation
THE LARGELY NEGATIVE IMPACT OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND PRIVACY ACTS ON THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE LAW ENFORCEMENT PROCESS IS DISCUSSED, AND AMENDMENT OF THE ACTS IS URGED.
Abstract
WHILE THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE BELIEVES THERE IS NO INHERENT CONFLICT BETWEEN EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING THESE ACTS, THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY AND THE ACTUAL LANGUAGE OF THE STATUTES HAVE PRESENTED PROBLEMS FOR THE DEPARTMENT. HAVING BEEN WRITTEN TO ELIMINATE ANY EXECUTIVE BRANCH DISCRETION ABOUT MATERIALS SUBJECT TO RELEASE, THE STATUTES LACK PRECISION AND CONSEQUENTLY MAKE A COURT DEFENSE OF DEPARTMENT POSITIONS DIFFICULT. IN ADDITION, THE STATUTES HAVE GREATLY INCREASED THE ADMINISTRATIVE BURDEN PLACED ON THE DEPARTMENT, WHILE FAILING TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE FUNDING TO COVER NECESSARY PERSONNEL, SUPPLIES, AND EQUIPMENT. SPECIFIC PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THESE ACTS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING: (1) RELEASE OF EXTREMELY SENSITIVE NONINVESTIGATORY RECORDS MAY BE DEMANDED BY THE COURTS EVEN IN CASES WHERE SUCH RELEASE WOULD AID THE LAWBREAKER AND ENABLE HIM TO AVOID APPREHENSION; (2) EVEN INVESTIGATORY RECORDS MUST BE REVIEWED FOR POSSIBLE RELEASE TO THE REQUESTER, ALTHOUGH IN MANY CASES THE REQUESTER IS THE INDIVIDUAL UNDER INVESTIGATION; (3) POSSIBLE RELEASE OF INFORMATION LIMITS THE ABILITY TO RETAIN AND RECRUIT INFORMANTS AND HAS THE POTENTIAL OF EXPOSING LAW ENFORCEMENT PERSONNEL AND THEIR FAMILIES TO VILIFICATION AND HARASSMENT; AND (4) RELEASE OF INFORMATION ON INVESTIGATIVE TECHNIQUES AND PROCEDURES COULD GREATLY INCREASE RISK TO PERSONNEL. IT IS CONCLUDED THAT CRIMINAL JUSTICE LAW ENFORCEMENT RECORDS WARRANT SEPARATE STATUTORY TREATMENT, BUT FAILING THIS, THE ACTS SHOULD AT LEAST BE AMENDED SO THAT THEY MAY BE PROTECTED WITHOUT EXPENDING EXCESSIVE RESOURCES. DESPITE THE PROBLEMS DISCUSSED, SOME BENEFITS HAVE ACCRUED TO LAW ENFORCEMENT FROM THESE TWO STATUTES. THESE INCLUDE RECOGNITION THAT CERTAIN RECORDS MAY BE JUSTIFIABLY WITHHELD, RESTORATION OF PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE LAW ENFORCEMMENT PROCESS, DEMONSTRATION OF THE COMPETENCE OF THE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE PROCESS IN THOSE CASES WHERE RECORDS HAVE BEEN RELEASED, AND A MORE CRITICAL SCRUTINY WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OF DATA ACQUISITION AND RETENTION PROCESSES AND NEEDS.