OVERVIEW OF THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974

CONDITIONS OF DISCLOSURE TO THIRD PARTIES

B. Twelve Exceptions to the "No Disclosure Without Consent" Rule

7. 5 U.S.C.  552a(b)(7) (law enforcement request)

"to another agency or to an instrumentality of any governmental jurisdiction within or under the control of the United States for a civil or criminal law enforcement activity if the activity is authorized by law, and if the head of the agency or instrumentality has made a written request to the agency which maintains the record specifying the particular portion desired and the law enforcement activity for which the record is sought."

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This provision, in addition to providing for disclosures to federal law enforcement agencies, also allows an agency, "upon receipt of a written request, [to] disclose a record to another agency or unit of State or local government for a civil or criminal law enforcement activity." OMB Guidelines, 40 Fed. Reg. 28,948, 28,955 (1975).

Note that the request must be submitted in writing and must be from the head of the agency or instrumentality. See Doe v. DiGenova, 779 F.2d 74, 85 (D.C. Cir. 1985); Doe v. Naval Air Station, 768 F.2d 1229, 1232-33 (11th Cir. 1985); see also Reyes v. Supervisor of DEA, 834 F.2d 1093, 1095 (1st Cir. 1987); United States v. Collins, 596 F.2d 166, 168 (6th Cir. 1979); SEC v. Dimensional Entertainment Corp., 518 F. Supp. 773, 775 (S.D.N.Y. 1981).

Record-requesting authority may be delegated down to lower-level agency officials when necessary, but not below the "section chief" level. See OMB Guidelines, 40 Fed. Reg. at 28,955; see also 120 Cong. Rec. 36,967 (1974), reprinted in Source Book at 958. The Department of Justice has delegated record-requesting authority to a "head of a component or a United States Attorney, or either's designee." 28 C.F.R.  16.40(c) (1999).


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