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Connecticut Supreme Court Reverses FOIA Disclosure of NCIC Printout

The Connecticut Supreme Court held on September 27, 2012 that a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) printout was exempt from production under the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), because a federal regulation barred its disclosure.

Rashad El Badrawi was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in October 2004 for civil immigration law violations. He was detained at the Hartford Correctional Center.

During El Badrawi’s confinement, Department of Corrections (DOC) officials requested information about him from the NCIC database. That inquiry produced a record indicating that El Badrawi was included in the NCIC’s “violent gang and terrorist organization file.” DOC officials printed the record and placed it in his file.

Following his release, El Badrawi submitted a FOIA request for all public records pertaining to his detention. When the DOC refused to provide the NCIC printout, he appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission.

The Commission concluded that disclosure of the printout was not barred by 8 C.F.R. § 236.6, as that rule applies only to current detainees. The rule states: “No person, including any state or local government entity or any privately operated detention facility, that houses, maintains, provides services to, or otherwise holds any detainee on behalf of [ICE] ... shall disclose or otherwise permit to be made public the name of, or other information relating to, such detainee.”

Because 8 C.F.R. § 236.6 did not apply, the Commission found that the NCIC printout was not exempt from disclosure under FOIA’s “except as otherwise provided by any federal law” exception in General Statute § 1-210(a). The trial court affirmed, holding that the Commission had properly found that since exemptions to FOIA must be narrowly construed, 8 C.F.R. § 236.6 should be construed as only applying to records related to current detainees. The court ordered the DOC to produce a redacted version of the NCIC printout.

The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed. After an extensive analysis, the Court concluded that “disclosure of the NCIC printout to El Badrawi is barred by 8 C.F.R. § 236.6, and, therefore, the document falls within the exemption to the act set forth in § 1-210(a).” Since that issue was dispositive, the Court declined to address El Badrawi’s remaining arguments.

The United States government had intervened in the case, siding with the DOC. See: Commissioner of Correction v. Freedom of Information Commission, 307 Conn. 53, 52 A.3d 636 (Conn. 2012).

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Related legal case

Commissioner of Correction v. Freedom of Information Commission