“Standard Operating Procedure 303” of the Department of Homeland Security is more commonly known as the “Internet Kill Switch.” Homeland security says that it is in place in order to shut down wireless networks in the event of a known or suspected bomb, which may be detonated using cell connections or through the Internet. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a freedom of information act request for the protocols in July of 2012.
After the request was filed, the department of homeland security claimed that they could not find any records on the kill switch. Naturally, EPIC appealed, and then the agency was able to locate the information requested. What they provided, however, was severely redacted and essentially useless. The agency said that they were withholding information based on the fact that the law allows it when the information could, “disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions” or “could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.”
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia, however, rejected these claims and demanded that the records be released within 30 days. The court did allow for the agency to appeal, though there is no word on whether they will or not.
The court said that the agency was wrong in claiming that it could withhold the information based on it being a technique for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions. Regarding their claim that it was redacted because it put the life or safety of people in danger, the court said, to “encompass possible harm to anyone anywhere in the United States within the blast radius of a hypothetical unexploded bomb also flies in the face of repeated Supreme Court direction to read FOIA exemptions narrowly.”