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Petitioner v. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Secretary of National Defense)

Case number:
3498/ 06
Country:
Mexico
Date of decision:
14 March 2007
Court / Arbiter:
Information Commission (Instituto General de Acceso a la Informacion Publica, or IFAI). ( Appellate )

Relevant law :

Decision:

The Secretariat of National Defence must release the name of the public officials who purchased body armour and the quantities provided to other agencies since this is public information under Article 7 of the RTI Law. Information on the security level of such armour is classified under Article 13(I) as it compromises national/public security and national defence, and – to the extent it is not already publicly available – should be kept confidential.


Keywords:
National security (including defense, intelligence, state security, state secrets, secrecy laws)
Oversight bodies (including information commission, judicial review, ombuds office)
Personal information (including personnel files, other records concerning or held by public servants)
Public safety
RTI law
Security sector (including intelligence bodies, military, police)

Case details:

Facts

In November 2006, Petitioner requested information from the Secretariat of National Defence (Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional, or SND), specifically: “(i) Names of the officials that participated and signed documents for the purchase of materials and supply of body armour to the SSP/PFP; (ii) the amount of body armour purchased, its cost, and level of security; (iii) documents that accredit and certify the ballistic level of the armour” [p.1].

SND disavowed the three specific requests. The first request was rejected on the ground that officers must consent to the disclosure of their name. SND also denied purchasing the body armour indicated by Petitioner. Moreover, it argued that the information on the ballistic level of the armour could not be disclosed because – to the extent such information landed in the wrong hands – disclosure could endanger the life and security of the personnel wearing such armour [p. 2]. It justified this last piece on Article 13(I) of the Federal Transparency and Access to Public Governmental Information Law (RTI Law), which classifies as reserved or confidential information that could compromise national security, public security or national defence. Nonetheless, the SND did release information on the armour’s cost.

Petitioner appealed before IFAI arguing that some of the information withheld by SND was of public knowledge and even available online [p.3-6].

 

Decision

With regard to the applicant’s first request—the names of the officials that authorized the purchase of materials and supply of body armour—IFAI relied on Article 7 (XIII)(a) of the RTI Law which mandates the release of information on contracts entered by administrative units, whether for public works or the acquisition of goods or services. IFAI understood this provision encompasses the names of those public officers that were involved in the celebration of such contracts, allowing for greater transparency and accountability. Thus, it ordered the SND to disclose their names without seeking their prior consent [pp-11-12].

As for the second of Petitioner’s requests - the cost/amount of body armour purchased by SND – IFAI noted that if the SND produced its own equipment (rather than purchasing it) as indicated by the SND in its response, it must have logically purchased at the very least the necessary materials to manufacture the armour. IFAI ordered the SND to release data on the amount of materials purchased to those ends (information on costs had already been disclosed) [pp12-13].

Finally, IFAI addressed the SND’s Article 13(I) national/public security exception defence that would protect information on the ballistic level of body armour from disclosure. IFAI noted the body armour was meant to protect the life and physical integrity of police and military personnel. To that extent, the information on the ballistic level of the armour was intricately related to the provision of national security, public security and national defence. Its disclosure could negatively affect military or police activities and operations conducted to secure these public ends. As such, IFAI confirmed this information was classified properly under Article 13(I) of the RTI Law, except for that information which was already available online [pp.13-20].

Resources:

IFAI administrative resolution