CT FOIC Ruling on Elm City ID

By Stephen Steinlight on July 11, 2008

Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission’s ruling against releasing names of “Elm City ID” recipients represents a temporary setback in the campaign to promote government transparency and dismantle one prop supporting New Haven’s “sanctuary” status. The decision will be appealed in State Superior Court. The ruling was not unanimous. Vigorously dissenting was FOI Chair, Andrew J. O’Keefe. He dismissed claims of “imminent threats” in hearsay evidence presented by New Haven and other plaintiffs, and found interpretation of CT’s DHS statute addressing protection of government infrastructure to include protection of illegal aliens legally untenable.

Intervener Powell noted the irony of plaintiff’s relying on a statute governing the purview of CT’s DHS to protect illegal aliens’ identities – considering illegal aliens perpetrated the enormity of 9/11. A parallel incongruence was testimony by CT Commissioner of Homeland Security, James M. Thomas that defended anonymity for ID cardholders, contravening the position of U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. After a recent speech at Yale Law School, Chertoff was asked his opinion of the “Elm City ID.” The Yale Daily News reported Chertoff “blasted the Elm City ID,” asserting it threatens public safety and security, noting issuing IDs to illegal aliens absent verifiable identification breaches the nation’s first wall of defense against terrorism: secure documentation.

Commissioner London, who presided over the hearings; the Commissioners who opposed the appeal; and plaintiff-attorneys treated the testimony of two New Haven policemen as infallible. Their credibility, however, was as questionable as their biases obvious. Retired Chief Ortiz strongly supports the “sanctuary city” program, is a future Yale employee (Yale provided the City representation in the first hearings), and stated his Latino identity shapes his views of the IDs. The second officer testified similarly. Both addressed key issues categorically. Most influential was Ortiz’s statement “he knew for a certainty” ID-holders would die if names were released.

Their testimony regarding the plausibility of death threats, rising hate crimes or whether crime has fallen due to the IDs has minimal credibility because none is based on empirical evidence. Testimony by expert witnesses, including CIS’s Jessica Vaughan, supported by voluminous data was dismissed in favor of “gut instincts” of two politicized Hispanic policemen. That this testimony was dispositive makes a mockery of the FOI process.