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Visa Secrecy Can’t Shield Canada Travel Document

(CN) - The State Department cannot withhold a customs document from a Canadian who renounced his U.S. citizenship, a federal judge ruled.

Robert Darnbrough filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department, seeking all of its records relating to his renunciation of his U.S. citizenship in 2003.

The department complied by providing him with nine documents, but it refused to turn over a 10th relating to Darnbrough's application for a Nexus card, which allows prescreened travelers to cross the Canadian border into the United States.

Darnbrough challenged the denial in federal court, and the State Department moved for summary judgment, citing the fact that the information in the document comes from the visa database, which is exempt from disclosure.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan denied the state department's motion Wednesday and ordered it to release the document.

"The department contends that the purpose for which the information was retained, rather than its content, is what determines whether the information is exempt," he wrote. "None of the cases cited by the department, however, involve the withholding of a document by virtue of where it is stored."

"The court finds that section 1202 (f) cannot be extended to cover materials unrelated to a visa issuance or denial simply because those documents are contained in a database among other documents that may pertain to visa issuances and denials," Sullivan added.

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