February 3, 2017

Late last year, IJ sued two federal agencies—the IRS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection—for flouting the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and hindering access to databases detailing the government’s forfeiture activity.

IJ requested the databases in March 2015, but over a year and a half later, neither agency has produced any forfeiture records. The IRS demanded more than $750,000 for its database, despite FOIA law mandating a waiver of such fees for requests in the public interest. Customs and Border Protection denied our request outright, wrongly claiming its database constitutes law enforcement “techniques or procedures” instead of just data about seizures and forfeitures.

By contrast, the Department of Justice (DOJ) shared its forfeiture database with us without charge, within just a few months and after redacting sensitive information—showing that it can easily be done. The DOJ’s data were used extensively in IJ’s second edition of Policing for Profit.

  Transparency is critical to holding government agencies accountable, particularly when they can seize and keep property without ever convicting owners of a crime. We are confident the courts will agree.

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