How to request your US Border file (and what you're likely to get)

Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the United States Customs and Border Protection agency for his own travel records, including the notoriously comprehensive "Passenger Name Record" — what he got was '72 pages of shit,' a redacted jumble of arbitrarily collected and retained nonsense. He didn't get his PNR. If you want to give it a try, he's signposted the procedure.

"You got 72 pages of shit, to put it crudely," he said, explaining that the CBP didn't give me the crown jewel of what I asked for: my own PNR records. His own PNR records, as he demonstrated in 2009, included far more detailed information, including the IP address used when he booked an airline ticket.

"Why they didn't include that when you explicitly asked for it, I can't tell you," he added. Hasbrouck agreed with Crump's assessment that the agency's lack of response was to be expected. "It's completely erratic. Some people get just the PNR and not the entry and exit data. Whether it's gross incompetence, malign neglect, or if they're overworked, whether it's that they don't understand the nature of what the data is—[it] suggests that the people doing the redacting don't know what the data is."

Hasbrouck also found the 2005 record of my being a journalist rather curious. He even wondered if this data point may be in violation of the United States Privacy Act, which states:

"Each agency that maintains a system of records shall…maintain no record describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment unless expressly authorized by statute or by the individual about whom the record is maintained or unless pertinent to and within the scope of an authorized law enforcement activity."

Ask Ars: Can I see what information the feds have on my travel? [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]