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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Feds are on my case over immigration jail floor plan

Back in January, when Fireman Randy was trying to ram an immigration jail into the South Waterfront District without proper pubic hearings, we published the proposed floor plan of that facility on this blog. The floor plan showed pretty clearly that what was (and still is) being proposed for SoWhat fits quite well into the common definition of a jail, although it was (and still is) being passed off as an office building.

Since then, we've heard a few times from the folks at the federal General Services Administration, questioning how we got the plan. Now we have received a formal request from the GSA to take the images of the plan down from our website.

The request letter is here. It's a curious document, and we don't agree that the authorities it cites require us to do anything of the sort. But it hardly seems worth arguing about at this point. We have taken the images down, at least for now, and are interested in what readers think about whether that was the right thing for us to do.

UPDATE, 11:00 p.m.: Here's a version of the floor plan on the City of Portland's own website. It's a little less detailed than what we displayed, but not much.

Comments (56)

I think it best for you to pull the floor plans. As a friend used to say "I'm not going to die on THAT hill"

Darn, I was hoping to use the plans for a new ICE board game. I'm glad the GSA caught the copyright infringement before I went to production. I'm going to buy another harddrive and start stockpiling all webpages before the censorship takes away the Internet. Did you intend the drawings to spark conversation, similar to the New York Times asking readers to cull tidbits from Sarah Paylon's email?

I'm sure the images in question are still viewable if one knows where to look.

After being in the public domain for so long anyone who really wanted the plans for nefarious reasons would have them by now.
It seems fairly obvious that the GSA and the City (Randy et al) are using their bullying ways to try and do a rush rush, hush hush, job.
I don't think you should have to suffer the consequences for the ignorance and ineptitude of others. It is sad that Portland is run by crooked bullies who do little but enrich themselves at the taxpayer expense.
I just wish Randy would quit now, but we seem to be stuck with him a while longer.

I think you should have declined to remove them until you got a formal letter from the GSA's counsel (Each GSA office has its own counsel) the fact that a Lease Officer sent you a C&D holds very little weight.

Yeah, it's pretty lame. I wouldn't be surprised if the lawyers were asked to get involved, and they declined.

I'm not a law expert like Lindsey Snow, but it seems the plans would qualify under fair use as your point was to show that the building was not merely office space. I don't blame you for not wanting to get into a legal dispute though.

Oh, yes, by all means -- as the GSA apparatchik declared in her re-warning letter to you: "maintain the edict"!

Long live Freedonia! Go by secret passageway!

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised at this, from a government that forces a 95-year-old cancer patient to remove her adult diaper to be searched at the airport. But what crap -- even citing Oregon law as if it mattered. If you tried to use Oregon law to get something from the feds they'd laugh at you.

Jack - Just saying I find it very odd that any Federal Agency is having a peon send out a legal notice.... I have never heard of this happening usually protocol would have their General Counsel handle the whole process.

Copyright doesn't apply in this case since your post seemed to use some level of criticism and speculation which would make it fair use.

I think you did the right thing. Sometimes people should do something even though they are not required to do so and have the right not to do it.

As someone smarter than I once said, "just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something".

Interesting situation, though

That letter was a Snow job! But fighting it would probably cost you more than it's worth. Wait! Maybe we should organize a Mr. B. Defense Fund.

I would have thought a tax prof would relished the chance to exchange a few letters with Uncle Sam.

"Dear Booting Jack Bureaucrat"

I think you did the right thing. There are battles worth fighting and those it's better to let go

How does the fact that this may not be a public document that the City of Portland would have to show me, forbid me from displaying the document if I have it? It does not compute.

As for the copyright claim, she appears to be making it on the architecture firm's behalf, which is spurious. Moreover, I'm not at all sure that firm owns the copyright -- not to mention fair use.

And how does some GSA regulation directed at its contractors give the GSA any authority over me? Curious all the way around.

If the issue really mattered to me, I'd fight this.

Jack - After looking at the letter carefully I noticed she is quoting PBS which is not even law its simply an internal guideline system that is promulgated by the agency itself and has no bearing on what citizens do.

Secondly, ORS 192.501 applies to how State and Local agencies disclose documents and does not apply to what a blogged decides to disclose on their personal website.

As for the copyright issue she raised that is moot under fair use.

Darn, I was hoping to use the plans for a new ICE board game.

No need to invent a game. ICE is already in Farmville.

The writer of that letter might be treading on very thin ice. Someone trying to use legal arguments to compel others to comply with a request should probably be licensed to practice law. At least that's my understanding of things.

Maybe she's a lawyer. But not a great one.

What a load of crap, although not at all surprising. It didn't take long to reveal that the "open government" directives that Obama issued at the beginning of his term aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

GSA has a long history of ineptitude, but citing regs as if they trump FOIA and/or Oregon public records statutes (which may be relevant to the extent that you received the plans from the city) is laughable. Even assuming the ORS cite is applicable to this case, GSA can't just say any floor plan is a per se revelation of "operational vulnerabilities" -- they have to explain the specific threat posed by publication. And given my memory of the images you posted, they show the office at a level of generality that doesn't seem to raise bona fide security questions.

But since the federal government will stop at nothing to push its knee-jerk agenda of secrecy, I bet GSA was willing to go to the mat on this one.

The point was made, no reason to fall on your sword. You cannot get the toothpaste back into the tube and it just makes them look all the more stupid to send a letter like that.

One thing for sure, six months on: that floor plan reveals an exposed nerve.

What a bunch of bananas over there.

I'd make a public records request upon the city for a copy of any companion letter that the GSA sent to the city regarding compliance with Oregon's public records law.

The GSA and the fireman are SO dumb.
The issue would probably have just gone along mostly unnoticed except...they sent you a 'nasty gram' letter. You published the letter and "censored" the offending drawing there by drawing attention to the issue all over again.
Discretion is the better part of valor, as you have proved here today. Congratulations!

You know you're doing the right thing when the gov tell you to stop it. Thank you Jack for fighting for truth!

You can almost hear the snap of her putting on the rubber gloves. Way scarier than a letter from some washed up AG warning you your comments are "defamation per se with malice".

Just submitted a FOIA/PA request for the all related documents from the GSA.

Careful, Jack. You might end up on Homeland Security's next list of site shutdowns.

Re: "If the issue really mattered to me, I'd fight this."

One reason to resist intimidation is to suppress any encouragement an intimidator might obtain from an easy success. Do you want to be similarly treated in the future? Do you think others, who do not have a law degree from Stanford or any other law school, should be similarly treated?

Of course, there are more than enough oppressions in any person's life to fill it up -- to the detriment of any person. Wisdom may well exist in knowing what should be let ride.

["Intimidator" and "ride" should in no way be associated herein with a roller coaster, despite the similarity of any legal dispute to that form of adrenaline-fueled distraction:

This attempt at intimidation was specifically targeted at you so perhaps you should consider it your responsibility to respond in a manner that will discourage the intimidator. Otherwise, you might find yourself, in future, preemptively censoring yourself. If that happens, your blog will have been diminished by low-level intimidation: a bully will have won.

Still, there are unknown consequences to any action: you cannot be sure about what you might be getting into and how much time it might take from you, time that is already committed elsewhere. That is, you may be less sure about the benefit you might derive from resistance to this intimidation than from defending against some other offense.

There are costs and benefits to every action as well as to inaction. "To be or not to be" is hardly an academic question.

Finally, in passing, didn't the Obama administration arrive with a call, even a promise, of transparency?

And in the open of his broadcast programming today, Lars Larson weighs in (emphasis on 'weight') and wades into this issue of fascistic anti-Freedom of Speech by oppression, and federal suppressions, against which unAmerican bureaucratic corruption Lars states his principled (not!) position conclusively and exactly thus: he is "interested in what readers think about whether that was the right thing." (Which is to say, he lamely said what Jack said; wishy-washy Lars has no personal reasoning in principles or conclusions, but only says or believes whatever words he is paid to say or believe.) Especially Lars is interested in readers who call-in to him what they think about this federal government micro-manage overreach.

Call now, so he can get names and numbers of dissenters.

In my opinion, I say you do the right thing: Remove the architecture floor plan as evidence of seditious bureaucrats betraying the public conscience with false representation of "not a jail," and instead, Jack, make the fact of being commanded and required to censor public information the bigger and stronger evidence of bureaucratic sedition betraying the public conscience with false representation about secret appropriations of public money.

Big up, Jack. Props. I am going to circulate links to this post in the high-traffic Big Blogs of the world and to prosecutors of government corruption in WashDC.
Praise the Word and pass the information.

Since they can't seem to get their ICE jail approved, they're planning to convert it to a bloggers' prison. If Jack has access to the plans, he'll probably hold out for a corner cell.

Can you imagine how many man-hours were spent on preparing, researching, editing, reviewing, and getting approval to send that dippy letter? If the Obama administration is serious about reducing wasteful government spending, that's a good place to start.

Got a interesting phone call from the GSA regarding my FOIA request.

Why would you cooperate?
They can't do anything to you can they?


Care to share any details about that phone call?

My impression is that if it did matter to Jack, he would fight like hell over it. My view is that's what's important - as has been noted, you can't fight every single thing that comes up in life - you have to pick your battles carefully, and I think Jack's done that here. Woe betide GSA if they come back again and pick the wrong issue.

This is a freedom of the press issue, and this blog definitely qualifies as a bona fide source of independent news and editorial opinion.

Thomas Jefferson, on the necessity of a free press (1787)
The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

America.gov archives

Michael: The Regional FOIA Officer called me he said he name was David and said that my FOIA would be declined and I asked why and he said that the Office of the Inspector General has launched a Federal Criminal Investigation into the release of the floor plans and other documents.

He then said he could still enter my FOIA request but would have to bill me an hour and I would just get a letter informing me of the refusal or I could save myself the money and wait until the investigation is complete.

Obviously I declined and told him he could remove my FOIA.

Benjamin, this FOIA story doesn't sound right. Here's the GSA's website:


You can file the request without a fee. They may send you a response that is nothing more than an estimate - but they won't charge for an estmate. Often federal agencies waive fees of

So file the request if you are curious and see what happens.

Why not ask the city for the floor plan? Sunshine laws and all.

Holy Shizuoka! A criminal investigation for this??
Thanks for using that large chunk of change from my paycheck wisely!

I believe Prof B. was correct in taking down the image. It was not time critical, no imminent danger either way. It was stale, old news, and as they say, "You can't un-see something once you've seen it." No precedent gets set in this context and I doubt that anyone at GSA was emboldened (Embiggened?) by it. Seems to be to be a half-assed job of fingerpointing gone public.

B. K. I really hate Feds -- or anyone else -- threatening verbally. If you filed hard copy your response should be hard copy. An aside, I am a recreational scuba diver who is cave-diving certified. This is also referred to as "restricted overhead environment" diving. After September Eleventh some Feds went to the training certification agency and demanded all information about divers with such certification. When the office manager resisted the "agents" said that if the information was not immediately handed over they would be back with a subpoena. The office lackey cowered in fear and created and delivered a CD. I have no such fear (yet) of a subpoena; it is a document of record of what someone wants, who they are, and gets "notarized" by a judge! A meatsack burping out soundwaves that appear to say "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" holds no sway for me. If it's a matter of funds I'll pungle up the fee for a GS-2 clerk to type your denial.

The images are still readily accessible on the government's main backup device, also known as Google.com.

UO: I assure you I know how the FOIA process works... He didn't ask for money up front but I would have still be sent a invoice and he informed me of the cost.

In anycase I verified he works for GSA his name is David Hyres (Region FOIA Officer) and the phone number he called me was listed on GSA.gov

You could file a FOIA on the GSA website and its likely you would get the same kind of call but its definitely a first in my book... Usually agencies take months to respond.

Isaac: Now that you mention that there is an entire copy of the floor plans on the City of Portland's BDS site if you do a Google search. Sheesh I wonder if GSA sent the Mayor a takedown request.

I'm sure that Steve Novick would help protect our FOIA rights if he were a member of the U.S. Senate. Or the City Council. He still believes in open government, right?

Or maybe it's just Us vs. Them, and right now, Jack is Them. Never, ever, question the Regime.

You can see a smaller version of them on images.google.com -

Just put in sowhat immigration jail.

Would you consider sending the documents that you have over to cryptome.org? They archive stuff like this and maybe they'd hang on to the files for you.


We become more and more of an authoritarian police state every day. Sickening.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant! Keep pushing, Jack.

I personally would have kept it online the letter seems bogus. Look forward to seeing how this ICEGate scandal develops.

Just Tuesday on behalf of a friend who lives in the targeted area, I wrote an e-mail that was sent to Mayor, City Commissioners, and Multnomah County:
----- Forwarded Message -----
To: douglas hardy ,
ice sowa , cityinfo@portlandoregon.gov, Samadams@portlandoregon.gov, amanda@portlandoregon.gov, Nick@portlandoregon.gov, randy@portlandoregon.gov, dan@portlandoregon.gov,
lavbonne griffin-valade
Sent: Tue, 28 Jun 2011 20:38:06 -0000 (UTC)
Subject: Public Hearing on ICE Detention Facility

"I do not understand the politics behind wanting to locate the detention facility for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department of the United States Department of Homeland Security at Moody and Bancroft, just a walk away from the heart of Portland. I and my fellow senior residents just a few blocks away are in strong opposition and wish to have our voices heard at the public hearing on July 6, 2011 via this e-mail.

There is an excellent location, already built and ready for occupancy at Wapato Jail. We could use the money to pay for all these wonderful bike paths that limit the roads for cars, trucks, and buses and maybe have some funds left over to provide services for the people of Portland and visitors who judge us by the sensibility of the "Keep Portland Weird" mayor and city council."

A copy was also mailed to Multnomah County. It only made sense that the facility was also going to be a holding jail. By utilizing a ready-to-go building, everyone wins.


I don't see why anyone would care much about publishing the floor plan of an office building, but maybe there's some sensitivity about publishing one of a prospective jail, regardless of what they're trying to call it...

TomR...the point is that the plans were and ARE already published, and still available on the City of Portland's web pages!
You cannot un-see what has already been seen.
Why is Jack's blog being targeted?
Why was a FOIA immediately refused?
Why is this facility even being considered in this area at all?
And oh so many other questions...

Yeah this all doesn't add up very well.

Why are the fed requirements at ice cannot br located within 1000 ft of a school.?

Why are the parking and maneuvering city requirements being disregarded?

Why are the sw Bancroft city restricted acess requirements of the central city plan being disregarded?

Why did ccp refuse to process ice jail under the conditional use process initially? (see Randy Leonard and Sam)

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