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More ICE FOIA Follies: ICE FOIA Switches from Email, eFOIA Xpress to Deloitte SecureRelease(TM)

July 27, 2023 (3 min read)

R. Andrew Free, July 27, 2023

"Deloitte Who?  ICE FOIA Office Uses Deloitte SecureRelease Platform to Claim It Has No Records on Deloitte SecureRelease Platform Contract

Some of ICE FOIA responses border on performance art. It is only in those terms that we might fully appreciate the surreal postmodern absurdity of the agency’s latest FOIA response.

ICE FOIA Switches from Email, eFOIA Xpress to Deloitte SecureRelease(TM)

If you’ve been following the struggle to claw public records out of this secret police force, you’ve probably noticed the agency switched platforms for handling FOIA requests.

When requestors go to ICE’s FOIA website looking for where to send their requests online . . .

. . . we’re taken out of the .gov world and into the sleek, privately operated SecureRelease.US.

SecureReleaseTM, we discover upon filing a request, is a product of ICE FOIA Contractor Deloitte, which openly brags about the strides it’s made in reducing ICE’s backlog. Unfortunately for requestors (and perhaps for Deloitte’s obligations to make truthful statements to investors and the regulators overseeing markets on which the company is publicly traded), the ICE FOIA backlog quadrupled during FY22. Not great.

Deloitte’s “cloud-based FOIA & PA management platform” carries tons of promise, if you review their trade materials:

Having somehow missed the invitation to this better, faster, more efficient ICE FOIA future Deloitte claims it created, we got curious to figure out what ICE is actually paying the company for.

So we did what we do, and filed a FOIA.

In it, we sought:

Contracting documents evidencing ICE’s transfer of technological responsibility to private contractor Deloitte for handling Freedom of Information Act Requests, including any Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan, Statement of Work, Performance Work Statement, or other similar document outlining the responsibilities Deloitte has accepted with respect to processing FOIA requests.

Please search ICE’s FOIA Office, the Office of the Acting Director, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and the Office of Acquisition Management for records responsive to this request.

Notably, our partners at MuckRock made this request to ICE through Deloitte’s own SecureRelease portal.

In an exceptionally prompt response, ICE denied the request 8 days after receiving it. No records, they said. None.

We appealed December 28, 2022:

We appeal the denial of this request. If there’s a place you know that has responsive records, our understanding of FOIA is that it’s your duty to refer or transfer the request there.

But we also believe the response is simply incorrect. ICE FOIA used SecureRelease to respond to our requests about SecureRelease. The ICE Chief FOIA Officer should have a copy of the records requested.

Thank you for not making us [wait] years for this nothing. It’s a vast improvement.

On July 26, 2023, once again using the Deloitte SecureRelease portal, ICE affirmed the denial.

ICE apparently paid Deloitte to send us its decision affirming the denial of our FOIA request for contracting documents between ICE and Deloitte to respond to FOIA requests.

You can’t make this *** up. 

I’m sure some amongst our growing government and former government stalkership will complain that we didn’t get records of ICE’s contract with Deloitte because we phrased the request incorrectly, and asked ICE FOIA to search the wrong office. (ProTip: use a VPN next time and we won’t see you reading from your IP address.)

Our reply to that explanation is you’re being too clever by half. FOIA requires the agency to broadly construe requests in favor of maximal disclosure. It’s called the presumption of openness. You can look it up. And we asked for a search of more offices than the one they actually conducted. By unilaterally narrowing the scope of the search, ICE successfully eliminated the results we sought. Standard-issue government box-checking.

Bottom line: According to ICE, there’s no contract at its Office of Acquisition Management between the agency and Deloitte to handle FOIA requests. By implication, there’s also no other office likely to possess such records, because if there were, and ICE didn’t search it the agency’s affirmance of initial denial would be baseless.

The reason we know these are ICE’s positions is that Deloitte received the request to ICE through the SecureRelease(TM) portal ICE links on its website and then responded to our request using the same portal. But no contract.

Absurdity abounds.

Fun fact: These ICE FOIA jabronis are entitled to a court-sanctioned “presumption of good faith and reliability” in FOIA litigation. Sure, Jan."