Office of Legal Counsel Withholds from Public 39% of Its Decisions
Friday, August 17, 2012
A Department of Justice office responsible for issuing important legal opinions on government policies has been withholding nearly 40% of its memos from the public.
The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has not published 39% of its 509 opinions produced since 1998, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group.
The Sunlight Foundation says keeping secret this many memos goes against the OLC’s guidelines and those recommended by former Justice Department officials.
OLC opinions “provide an important window into how the executive branch interprets laws and constrains agency behavior,” wrote the Sunlight Foundation on its website. “During the Bush administration, the misuse of OLC memos combined with unwarranted secrecy about their existence was a major spark to the controversy over the use of torture during interrogations, among many other issues.”
The watchdog group added: “Similar concerns have been raised regarding the Obama administration. While there is undoubtedly a need for some opinions to be closely held, an approximately two-fifths withholding rate (both overall and for the Obama administration) most likely is too high.”
To Learn More:
39% of Office of Legal Counsel Opinions Kept from the Public (by Daniel Schuman and Adeeb Sahar, Sunlight Foundation)
Obama Refuses to Release Bush’s Legal Excuse for Illegal Surveillance (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
What is the Secret Memo that Gives Obama’s FBI Access to Phone Records without Court Approval? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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