Legal Filings

Legal Filings
Jul 11, 2012

CREW Files Ethics and DOJ Complaints Against Rep. Issa for Violating Wiretap Statute

Darrell Issa portraitWashington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) violated federal law by including material from a sealed wiretap application in the Congressional Record. 

Under federal law, applications for wiretap warrants are sealed and cannot be disclosed absent a court’s permission.  Nevertheless, as part of his effort to have  Attorney General Eric Holder held in contempt for failing to provide documents in the House Oversight Committee’s Fast and Furious investigation, Rep. Issa himself illegally disclosed documents. 

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “It is ironic that by revealing the warrant application to further his effort to have Attorney General Eric Holder held in contempt, Rep. Issa was willing to flirt with his own potential contempt charge.”

Rather than releasing the warrant application to the media directly, which would clearly have been prosecutable, Rep. Issa inserted the information into the Congressional Record.  This way, he shielded his otherwise illegal conduct behind the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution.  Evidence also suggests Rep. Issa or his staff may have directed reporters to the Congressional Record to ensure the information contained in the leaked warrant application was discovered and further publicized.  Such actions, which could constitute “republication” of the material, might not be subject to the same constitutional protections.

Sloan continued, “Given the political climate, it is hard to imagine the Department of Justice taking this on, making it all the more critical for the House to come down hard on Rep. Issa.  No member of Congress should be permitted to avoid accountability for deliberately violating federal law by cloaking himself in the Constitution.  What could reflect more discreditably upon the House?”

There is precedent for holding Rep. Issa accountable for violating the wiretap statute.  In 2007, the D.C. Court of Appeals found Rep. James McDermott (D-WA) civilly liable for improperly disclosing to reporters a 1996 tape of a conversation between then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republican leaders, including Rep. John Boehner (R-OH).

Sloan concluded, “Speaker Boehner spent over 10 years pushing to see Rep. McDermott held liable for improperly disclosing a tape.  Surely, we should expect him to just as zealously demand Rep. Issa be held responsible for similar violations of the law.”

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