The Minnesota Department of Public Safety should not have withheld the entire contracts and non-disclosure agreements for its cell phone tracking devices known as StingRay II and KingFish. That's the advisory opinion issued Tuesday from the agency that interprets the state's public records law, and signed by Acting Administration Commissioner Matthew Massman.

I've been trying to get those records since June, but the department has refused to release them. They say doing so would violate trade secrets and expose investigative techniques that could be exploited by criminals. Considering that Hennepin County had already released the same documents, with minor redactions, the Star Tribune asked the Information Policy Analysis Division to weigh in.

Drew Evans, assistant superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, argued that the documents had to be withheld in their entirety because "heavy redaction of the documents was so intertwined with the public data that we were unable to separate the public from the protected data in a meaningful manner."

The presence of the Hennepin documents (obtained by privacy and open government advocate Rich Neumeister) clearly influenced the commissioner, who wrote that contracts and non-disclosure agreements would likely include public data that, by law, the agency must release.

I have renewed my request for these records, and will let you know what the department says.

Here's the opinion: