Fee Request Follows Drone Records Victory
(CN) - After winning access to 700 pages on the use of drones by Customs and Border Patrol, the Electronic Frontier Foundation wants $84,000 in attorneys' fees.
The privacy-defending nonprofit sued the Department of Homeland Security in 2012 for information on, among other things, the policies that the department and its Border Patrol component had in place for domestic surveillance by unmanned aircraft.
Litigation freed up three years of redacted "daily reports" that revealed the department had arranged more than 500 flights for dozens of law-enforcement organizations, and that more than a fifth of these flights helped Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said.
"As a direct result of this lawsuit, CBP released nearly 700 pages of never-before-seen records," its Wednesday motion for attorneys' fees states. "These records detailed the agency's operational and future plans for its drone program, its procedures for prioritizing missions, and the extensive 'drone sharing' program by which CBP flies its Predator drones hundreds of times each year on behalf of other federal, state and local agencies. This lawsuit also exposed for the first time the fact that CBP considered weaponizing its drones."
Given its success in winning never-before-seen documents, which numerous media outlets have now covered and which have affected congressional inquiries into the agency's drone use, the foundation is seeking $83,635 in attorneys' fees, and costs of $436.
"If EFF had not requested the information from CBP and pursued this lawsuit, there is no reason to believe that CBP would have collected and reviewed the records or made them publically available," the 29-page motion states.
"The fact that these records were 'covered extensively in the news and cited frequently as a news source,' furthers public understanding of CBP's Predator drone program and Predator drone surveillance capabilities and has alerted the public to how CBP has been allocating tax dollars on drone flights," the foundation added.
In addition, the CBP's failure to release the records before the filing of the lawsuit, and its firm opposition to the EFF's litigation efforts support the fee request, EFF claims.
EFF senior staff attorney Jennifer Lynch filed the brief.