United States Secret Service Use of the National Crime Information Center

Headnotes: 

The United States Secret Service (USSS) has authority under 18 U.S.C. § 3056 to investigate and maintain files on an individual who it reasonably believes might pose a threat to the physical safety of those it is responsible for protecting, even though that individual is not the subject of an arrest warrant or under investigation for any prior criminal activity.

The USSS has authority to disclose information in its investigative files to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law enforcement agencies through entry of this information into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The Attorney General is also independently authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 534 to disseminate information on criminal investigations, including information on USSS-monitored subjects, for law enforcement purposes.

An exchange of information among law enforcement agencies through the NCIC must satisfy the requirements of the Privacy Act. In order to avoid that statute’s general prohibition on disclosure, the USSS and FBI must satisfy the procedural requirements of the “ routine use” exemption contained in 5 U.S C. § 552a(b)(3).

Disclosure of information from the NCIC on USSS-monitored subjects for non-law enforcement purposes, such as employment or licensing, is prohibited by the Privacy Act, and may raise serious constitutional problems under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Both 28 U.S.C. § 534 and the Privacy Act require that reasonable efforts be made to assure that information contained in the NCIC is accurate and relevant to its use for law enforcement purposes.

Updated July 9, 2014