Judicial Watch Sues Obama Justice Department to Obtain ‘Fast and Furious’ Records Withheld from Congress
Lawsuit Challenges Executive Privilege Withholdings
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:12-cv-01510)) against the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking access to Operation Fast and Furious records withheld from Congress by President Obama under executive privilege on June 20, 2012. Judicial Watch seeks the following records pursuant to a June 22, 2012, FOIA request filed with the Office of Information Policy (OIP), a component of the DOJ:
All records subject to the claim of executive privilege invoked by President Barack Obama on or about June 20, 2012, as referenced in the letter of Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole to the Honorable Darrell E. Issa, Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives, dated June 20, 2012. More specifically, the records requested herein are those records described by Deputy Attorney General Cole in his June 20, 2012 letter as “the relevant post-February, 2011, documents” over which “the President has asserted executive privilege.”
The lawsuit was filed yesterday, on September 12, 2012.
On August 6, 2012, OIP informed Judicial Watch that the Offices of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General had determined that the documents responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request should be withheld in full pursuant to FOIA Exemption 5 which protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.” Judicial Watch appealed the determination. By law, a response was due September 11, 2012. However, as of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, the DOJ had failed to respond.
Fast and Furious was a DOJ/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gun-running” operation in which the Obama administration reportedly sold guns to Mexican drug cartels in hopes that they would end up at crime scenes. Fast and Furious weapons have been implicated in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and countless other people in Mexico.
Congressional investigators, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, have fought to secure records related to the Fast and Furious program, but the DOJ continues to withhold responsive records from disclosure. On June 20, 2012, President Obama made a highly controversial decision to assert Executive Privilege to shield the DOJ’s Fast and Furious records from disclosure. Executive privilege is reserved to “protect” White House records, not the records of federal agencies, which must be made available, subject to specific exceptions, under the Freedom of Information Act.
The president’s assertion of executive privilege came just hours before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to respond to congressional subpoenas for Fast and Furious records. On June 28, 2012, the House voted 255-67 to hold Holder in contempt. (A number of Democrats joined the vote, while other Democrats, endorsing lawlessness, walked out in protest.) A second vote, 258-95, authorized the pursuit of records through civil litigation in the courts. Moreover, documents uncovered by CBS News seem to indicate that AG Holder may have perjured himself during congressional testimony detailing what he knew about Fast and Furious and when.
“It certainly appears that the president improperly invoked executive privilege to cover up the Fast and Furious scandal and protect his corrupt Attorney General,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It’s long past time for the Obama administration to come clean and complete the public record on one of the most egregious violations of public trust in modern political history. We hope our lawsuit pries loose more information and exposes Obama’s abuse of power in holding these records secret.”
Previously, Judicial Watch separately filed a FOIA lawsuit against the ATF seeking access to records detailing communications between ATF officials and a White House official regarding Fast and Furious.