MARCH 18, 2005
Bush Administration Undermines Freedom of Information Act
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, is in receipt of 915 blacked-out pages relating to the Clinton pardon scandal after four years of litigation. Judicial Watch originally filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request for the Clinton pardon documents on January 29, 2001.
In May of 2004 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the Bush Administration’s claim of presidential communications privileges regarding the Justice Department documents “. . .would be both contrary to executive privilege precedent and considerably undermine the purposes of FOIA to foster openness and accountability in government.” Furthermore, the Court added that such an extension “. . . would have far-reaching implications for the entire executive branch that would seriously impede the operation and scope of FOIA.”
The Justice Department produced 915 blacked-out pages of records to Judicial Watch in reply to the Court of Appeals ruling, citing the “deliberative process” and other exemptions.
Initially the Bush Administration, asserting executive privilege, fought to prevent the release of the documents. On January 21, 2004 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice (01-0639 (USDCDC)). It was Judicial Watch’s goal to force the Bush Justice Department to release the thousands of documents relating to President Bill Clinton’s controversial pardons.
There were 177 Clinton pardons, including one for fugitive financier Marc Rich. Some of the pardons were granted in spite of criminal investigations going on at the time, yet the Bush Administration continues its fight to prevent any sunshine from illuminating the 4,300 pages related to the pardons.
“The Justice Department turned over a mere fraction of the documents, all of which were nearly completely redacted. This document black-out is an insult to the Court and a slap in the face to the American people. It boggles the mind that the Bush Administration would go to such unprecedented lengths to cover up a Clinton Administration scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Justice Department behavior is also ironic considering this is National Sunshine Week, which seeks to highlight government openness.”