Justice Foils FOIA; Obama Administration Impedes Open Government and Media Freedom

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 28, 2010 | Go to article overview

Justice Foils FOIA; Obama Administration Impedes Open Government and Media Freedom


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Justice Department is withholding documents demanded by this newspaper under terms of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In so doing, the department is asserting privileges that do not exist or do not apply. Ironic as it may sound, Justice seems to be breaking the law.

The Washington Times' FOIA request asked for documents pertaining to the department's controversial decision to dismiss a civil complaint accusing the New Black Panther Party of intimidating Philadelphia voters on Election Day 2008. In response, the department said it would withhold 69 documents totaling 135 pages, including interdepartmental e-mails, drafts of court filings and briefing materials. The department claimed that deliberative process and attorney work-product privileges exempted the material from disclosure.

As former Justice Department official Michael A. Carvin explained to us two weeks ago, those exemption claims are bogus. Normally, there is no general attorney-client privilege, he said, "unless you are dealing with the president, so [the claim] would have to come under work-product or deliberative process. But work-product is very narrow, and deliberative process is moot. .. Deliberative

process privilege typically doesn't extend after a matter is closed"

The decision to drop the charges was made in May. The case is not open. The deliberative process privilege is therefore not applicable. …

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