Sunday, November 6, 2011

Will OFAC release Cuba license database?

Another kind of Cuba license
On Oct. 10, I sent the Office of Foreign Assets Control a letter asking for a copy of OFAC's current Licensing Database of Individuals and Companies.
A 2009 version of the database is posted on the Treasury Department's website. It's an Excel file that anyone can download. I requested the latest version of the same information under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
OFAC responded on Oct. 17, saying the agency was working on my request.
Freelance journalists are eligible for fee waivers under FOIA. OFAC denied my request for a waiver. I appealed that decision in a letter I am mailing Nov. 7.
I gave OFAC three reasons why publication of the material would add to the public's understanding of government operations and activities:
  1. Information on license approvals and denials allows the public to understand the basis for OFAC's application of the regulations and guidelines. It also helps potential applicants anticipate whether they are qualified, or what might make them more qualified. 
  2. The information allows the public to evaluate OFAC's implementation of President Obama's Jan. 14, 2011, request that the Treasury Department and other federal agencies make changes to regulations and policies governing "purposeful travel." Knowing who has gotten licenses makes it easier to understand whether OFAC is a bottleneck or a facilitator when it comes to “purposeful travel.” 
  3. The information may provide insight into whether decision-making at OFAC is objective and consistent, or subjective and politicized.
Larry Luxner, editor of CubaNews, plans to publish any stories that result from the OFAC material. He wrote a letter of support.
What do you think? Any reason why the Cuba license database should be secret? Or, if you believe the public has a right to see it, what can we learn from it? How can its disclosure contribute to the public knowledge of OFAC operations?


Cuba Journal said...

I think you are wasting your time.
OFAC is just a bunch of Obama Nazis. They will stone-wall you.

Tracey Eaton said...

I have no idea if the FOIA will produce anything, but the document shouldn't be all that sensitive. A 2009 version of it is already posted on the Treasury Dept's website.