December 6, 2006
FROM: Camille Jobin-Davis, Assistant Director
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence, except as otherwise indicated.
We are in receipt of your request for an advisory opinion concerning application of the Freedom of Information Law to a request made for a “lookup table of Originating Agency Identifier (ORI) codes for law enforcement agencies in New York.” Based on your description of this record, it is our opinion that it should be made available to you.
As general matter, the Freedom of Information Law is based upon a presumption of access. Stated differently, all records of an agency are available, except to the extent that records or portions thereof fall within one or more grounds for denial appearing in §87(2)(a) through (j) of the Law. In our opinion, the contents of the record in question are most relevant in considering the extent to which the record may be withheld or must be disclosed.
Records prepared by and for an agency would constitute intra-agency materials that fall within the coverage of §87(2)(g) of the Freedom of Information Law. That provision states that an agency may withhold records that:
"are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not:
i. statistical or factual tabulations or data;
ii. instructions to staff that affect the public;
iii. final agency policy or determinations; or
iv. external audits, including but not limited to audits performed by the comptroller and the federal government..."
It is emphasized that the language quoted above contains what in effect is a double negative. While inter-agency or intra-agency materials may be withheld, portions of such materials consisting of statistical or factual information, instructions to staff that affect the public, final agency policy or determinations or external audits must be made available, unless a different ground for denial could appropriately be asserted. Concurrently, those portions of inter-agency or intra-agency materials that are reflective of opinion, advice, recommendation and the like could in my view be withheld.
Based on your description of its content, the record you have requested is a key or a reference that identifies code numbers associated with each law enforcement agency is New York. This type of information is factual in nature, and in our opinion, therefore, is required to be disclosed unless another exception to the law applies.
As you indicated in our telephone conversation, you have been denied access to the record based on §87(2)(i), which permits an agency to deny access to records that “if disclosed, would jeopardize the security of its information technology assets, such assets encompassing both electronic information systems and infrastructures.” Unlike security codes or a list of passwords utilized to gain access to a particular database, this list would enable a person to identify a law enforcement agency based on a number. Based on our understanding of this record, disclosure would not jeopardize the security of information technology assets. Accordingly, it is our opinion that the agency cannot justifiably rely on this exception to withhold the record.
On behalf of the Committee on Open Government we hope this is helpful to you.