CONTACT: Office of Senator Leahy, 202-224-4242


In Final Days, Bush Administration Continues To Stonewall


WASHINGTON (Friday, Dec. 12, 2008) – Even in the final days of the Bush administration, the Department of Justice continues to stonewall congressional subpoenas for documents from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), according to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Friday underscored the Department’s continued obstruction and hit the Department on going back on its word to provide the Committee with copies of six documents related to a subpoena issued in October for OLC documents.


In a letter dated November 14, Justice Department officials said the Department was “prepared to make available for Committee staff review at the Department” two national security-related OLC opinions subpoenaed on October 21.  The Department also wrote that it was “prepared to provide the Committee with copies of additional OLC memoranda on November 17, 2008.”  Upon receipt of the letter, followed by a verbal assurance on November 17 that the documents were being delivered to the Committee, Leahy postponed the return date of the subpoena, which was scheduled for November 18.  To date, the Department has provided the Committee with copies of just two documents, one of which was not listed in the October 21 subpoena and was already widely available in the public domain.  The remaining six documents have been made available at the Department only for staff review.


“Bush administration officials at the Department of Justice have provided nothing to explain their sudden change of position concerning the documents previously promised the Committee,” said Leahy.  “Now we hear through the press that they are stonewalling access of the President-elect’s transition team to OLC documents as well.  Regrettably, the Bush administration’s initial pledges of cooperation with the transition team seem to be falling short, and that mirrors their lack of cooperation with the Senate Judiciary Committee.”


Leahy continued, “The Bush administration talks about working together, but they care more about continuing their secretive practices.  Just as there is no justification for denying the incoming administration legal opinions that were the basis for Executive Branch policy, there is no justification for denying them to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The next administration and the next Congress will be left to clean up the mess at the Department.  Rather than continue to delay, the Bush administration should be working to help the Congress and President-elect Obama and his team to hit the ground running on January 20.  The right people are ready to begin working to restore the integrity of the Justice Department and they cannot do that without access to this information.  President-elect Obama has identified his pick to lead the Justice Department, Attorney General designee Eric Holder.  We will be working hard to have the Justice Department leadership team in place as soon as possible so we can begin to peel back the layers of secrecy that has defined this administration.” 


The two documents provided to the Committee, a memorandum dated November 6, 2001, entitled “Re: Legality of the Use of Military Commissions to Try Terrorists” (subpoena item 1.H), and a memorandum dated February 7, 2002, entitled “Status of Taliban Forces Under Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949”, are available online.  The remaining six documents have been identified as read-only, and copies have not been provided to the Committee for discussion and disclosure.


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Source: Office of Sen. Leahy