CREW Lawsuit Results in Release of Portions of Former VP Cheney’s Interview with FBI in Wilson Leak
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered the release of records of former Vice President Cheney’s interview with the FBI in the Valerie Plame Wilson leak investigation. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), CREW had sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking release of the records.
Judge Sullivan agreed with CREW that because the investigation is now over the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot withhold all documents based on an exemption that protects law enforcement records from disclosure. Judge Sullivan rejected DOJ’s argument that future White House officials would be unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement inquiries if these records were released.
The Court agreed, however, with the DOJ’s view that portions of the records are privileged, meaning they do not have to be released, because some discuss internal agency deliberations, while others reflect communications between the president and vice-president. Paragraphs 6 and 8 of the Declaration of David J. Barron detail the information DOJ can withhold. Although CREW had argued Vice President Cheney had waived the privileges by agreeing to the interview with no preconditions, Judge Sullivan disagreed.
Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, stated, “Judge Sullivan rightly rejected a Justice Department interpretation of the FOIA that would have allowed the government to withhold virtually any law enforcement record even where an investigation has long since been concluded.” Sloan continued, “We are disappointed, however, that the judge allowed DOJ to withhold portions of some records because the American people deserve to know the truth about the role the vice president played in exposing Mrs. Wilson’s covert identity. High-level government officials should not be permitted to hide their misconduct from public view.”
On March 19, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidance directing agencies not to withhold information under the FOIA just because they can do so legally. The attorney general quoted President Barack Obama’s January 21, 2009 directive, which stated, “The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”
Although DOJ has won the right to withhold some material, CREW calls on Attorney General Holder to make good on DOJ’s commitment to transparency by disclosing even those materials the court found can legally be withheld.
Read David J. Barron’s declaration here.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Stephen Santulli at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.