DHS Records Destruction Proposal Would Sanction Agency’s Persistent Misconduct

WASHINGTON – A coalition of transparency and accountability organizations, led by Open The Government, strongly oppose the Department of Homeland Security’s proposal to reclassify as “temporary” complaint records related to the agency’s extensive list of civil rights and civil liberties violations. If approved, the proposal submitted to the National Archives and Records Administration would grant DHS the authority to destroy records of misconduct in as soon as four years, allowing the agency to evade accountability for its actions.

The agency’s reclassification proposal would also destroy records on deportation despite federal court order, the use of deadly force and misuse of weapons, and information collected under the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

“DHS’s record of flagrant misconduct means the public can ill afford for NARA to sanction more secrecy at the agency by approving this proposal to reclassify and quietly destroy records that could expose more wrongdoing,” said Lisa Rosenberg, executive director of Open The Government. “At a time when more than 95% of misconduct complaints against the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are closed without further investigation, DHS’s claims that there is little public value in records that document the agency’s grave misconduct are preposterous. NARA must protect the public’s right to know and reject the proposal.”

Citing a number of accountability concerns, including the DHS’s history of obstructing congressional oversight, ignoring rulings by the Supreme Court, and rampant misconduct of rogue elements at one of its major operational components, the CBP, Open The Government, and its coalition partners urged NARA to swiftly reject the DHS’s proposal.