TSA Can Withhold Watch List Inclusion Process

     WASHINGTON (CN) – An American who says he was busted on a bogus marijuana charge during a trip to Egypt won’t be able to get his hands on TSA records that might reveal how he made it onto the agency’s watch list, a federal judge ruled.
     U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the Department of Homeland Security and its Transportation Security Administration won’t have to give up the information under exemption three of the Freedom of Information Act, which allows the government to withhold information protected by federal statute.
     Ryan Skurow sued Homeland Security and the TSA in 2011 for denying his FOIA request. Skurow says he traveled to Israel in 1998 as a tourist with friends, but the group was busted for marijuana possession by Egyptian police during an excursion trip to the Sinai Peninsula. He and his friends were tried without counsel, fined $200 and returned to Israel, but since then Skurow says he’s been detained multiple times in American airports. On one occasion, he was told by a customs officer that his name is on a watch list as a result of his 1998 arrest.
     Skurow made several attempts before filing his complaint to find out how he got on the list, but the TSA only released redacted documents to him.
     “In his opposition, plaintiff principally argues that the government acted in bad faith,” states Judge Sullivan. “Plaintiff also argues that defendants’ searches were inadequate and that the exemptions do not apply.”
     The judge backed the TSA, stating that “delays in responding to FOIA requests are not, in and of themselves, indicative of agency bad faith.”
     He also ruled that the TSA performed an adequate search and that a statute giving the Secretary of Homeland Security the right to withhold information determined to be detrimental to the security of transportation sufficient to meet the FOIA exemption.
     The judge dismissed Skurow’s case and granted the government’s motion for summary judgment.

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