Anne Weismann, CREW Chief FOIA Counsel, sent testimony to Congress about the “body of secret law” held in Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions, and the need for transparency and accountability in that branch of the Justice Department. OLC provides definitive interpretations of laws that bind federal agencies, officers, and employees, and their opinions determine the legality of conduct from warrantless surveillance to targeted killing of Americans on foreign soil.
OLC affects not just federal employees who are bound by their opinions, but also the general public. A striking example of the OLC’s importance is the OLC opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted or face criminal prosecution, which is of obvious consequence in this presidential administration. CREW filed a lawsuit in 2013 to obtain copies of all formal OLC opinions, and the legal battle for the documents continues. As binding decisions with wide ranging consequences, OLC opinions must not be allowed to remain in the dark.