Leak On Obama’s Aunt Violates Agency Regulations

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The leaking of information about the immigration status of Barack Obama’s aunt appears to directly violate regulations for confidentiality laid out in a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) memo obtained by TPMmuckraker.

As we reported earlier, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (which is the law enforcement arm of USCIS) has begun an internal probe into the leak to the Associated Press, which revealed early this morning that Obama’s aunt “is in the United States illegally after an immigration judge rejected her request for asylum four years ago.”

The memo, written in 2005 by Joseph Langlois, director of the Asylum Division in the Office of Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations, reads in part:

The federal regulations at 8 CFR 208.6 generally prohibit the disclosure to third parties of information contained in or pertaining to asylum applications, credible fear determinations, and reasonable fear determinations–including information contained in RAPS or APSS1–except under certain limited circumstances. These regulations safeguard information that, if disclosed publicly, could subject the claimant to retaliatory measures by government authorities or non-state actors in the event that the claimant is repatriated, or endanger the security of the claimant’s family members who may still be residing in the country of origin.

According to established guidance, confidentiality is breached when information contained in or pertaining to an asylum application (including information contained in RAPS or APSS) is disclosed to a third party in violation of the regulations, and the unauthorized disclosure is of a nature that allows the third party to link the identity of the applicant to: (1) the fact that the applicant has applied for asylum; (2) specific facts or allegations pertaining to the individual asylum claim contained in an asylum application; or (3) facts or allegations that are sufficient to give rise to a reasonable inference that the applicant has applied for asylum.

It’s worth noting again that we don’t know for certain the leak came from ICE, since people at other government agenicies could have had access to the information.

Still, from the available evidence, it appears ICE is the most likely source. And Dan Kowalski, a leading immigration law expert, told TPMmuckraker that there’s “no question” the leak violated ICE’s guidelines as laid out in the memo.

And he identified for TPMmuckraker some additional, pertinent questions, asking:

1. Did the leaker know it was a violation? 2. Was the leak politically motivated? 3. A solo action, or conspiracy of 2 or more? If the latter, who is the boss?

We’ll be working to bring you answers…