News

Court Orders DOJ to Provide Some Fast and Furious Documents

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) must turn over an index of Fast and Furious documents to the legal watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watchdog
Judicial Watch has successfully sued the Obama Administration for embarrassing documents on several occasions, most recently in the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal. Logo credit: Jill Farrell, Judicial Watch.

Generally speaking, the documents at issue are about how and if the Obama administration misled Congress about the Fast and Furious matter.

This order forces the Obama DOJ, for the first time and by October 1, 2014, to provide a detailed index of all documents that it has withheld from Congress and the American people for years about the deadly Fast and Furious gun-running scandal. Click here for the ruling.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “A federal court has ordered the Obama administration to produce information that could, for the first time, provide specific details who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people.” The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates lifted a lengthy 16-month delay of this open-records lawsuit.

The DOJ opposed the Judicial Watch action, claiming it would interfere with the department’s continuing litigation with the House Oversight Committee concerning these Fast and Furious documents subpoenaed in October 2011. In September 2012, Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents.

Specifically, Judge Bates ordered DOJ to produce a “Vaughn index” of all requested Operation Fast and Furious materials from the June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent September 2012 FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice [No. 1:12-cv-01510]). Judicial Watch sought all of the documents the Obama White House was withholding from the House of Representatives under executive-privilege claims.

Judge Bates also noted no court has ever “expressly recognized” President Obama’s executive privilege claims that his administration is using.

A Vaughn index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption.” In ordering the DOJ to provide Judicial Watch the Vaughn index, the Court ruled, “In this circuit, when an agency is withholding documents under exemption claims, courts require that the agency provide a Vaughn index so that the FOIA requester – at a distinct informational disadvantage – may test the agency’s claims.” Fast and Furious was a DOJ/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gun-running” operation in which the Obama administration reportedly allowed guns to go to Mexican drug cartels in hopes that they would end up at crime scenes, thereby advancing gun-control policies. Fast and Furious weapons have been implicated in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of innocent people in Mexico.

On June 20, 2012, President Obama asserted executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed eight months earlier. Judicial Watch filed its FOIA request two days later. When the DOJ denied that request, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit on September 12, 2012. On February 15, 2013, Judge Bates stayed the case, in part to allow ongoing settlement discussions between the DOJ and the House Committee to continue. Judge Bates’ order lifted the stay after a lengthy July 18 hearing.

Fitton said, “This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in face of all this lawlessness. Finally, we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the countless others murdered as a result of the insanely reckless Obama administration program.”

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Comments (12)

  1. It’s a crying shame that this had to be done by Judicial Watch, simply because 435 members of Congress and 100 senators can’t come up with two balls and a spine between the lot of them.

  2. Sorry about the multiple posts. I tried to delete the first one to make changes by “editing” it, and ended up with three instead of only one. Another miserable failure. Oh well….I look forward to forgetting about it and making plans to sight in a newer rifle next week.

  3. G-man, unfortunately, it is my belief that there will be no mass insurrection against any type of tyranny because 40% of the population is in some way dependent on our nanny-state government. They have no stake in that which is experienced by those who are forced to pay for government’s continued corruption and waste. I.e., those who exist merely because of the continuing huge cradle-to-the-grave welfare programs have no incentive to rock the boat that keeps them dry. The rest of us would seriously consider sinking that very boat, replacing it with a new government that is once again based on a Constitution that stressed individual freedom and responsibility, plus government accountability.

    So far, I see a government that is not accountable to any of us who are forced to support it financially, plus a rogue President who makes his own rules with his “phone and pen;” that is, when he isn’t on the golf course, on vacation or on fund-raising tours.

    I am a student of Alexis De Toqueville, the French political thinker and historian (who died in 1859). Here are some of his quotes:

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/465.Alexis_de_Tocqueville

  4. G-man, unfortunately, it is my belief that there will be no mass insurrection against any type of tyranny because 40% of the population is in some way dependent on our nanny-state government. They have no stake in that which is experienced by those who are forced to pay for government’s continued corruption and waste. I.e., those who exist merely because of the continuing huge cradle-to-the-grave welfare programs have no incentive to rock the boat that keeps them dry. The rest of us would seriously consider sinking that very boat and replacing it with a new government that is once again based on a Constitution that stressed individual freedom and responsibility, plus government accountability.

    So far, I see a government that is not accountable to any of us who are forced to support it financially, plus a rogue President who makes his own rules with his “phone and pen;” that is, when he isn’t on the golf course, on vacation or on fund-raising tours.

    I am a student of Alexis De Toqueville, the French political thinker and historian (who died in 1859). Here are some of his quotes:

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/465.Alexis_de_Tocqueville

  5. G-man, unfortunately, it is my belief that there will be no mass resurrection against any type of tyranny because 40% of the population is in some way dependent on our nanny-state government. They have no stake in that which is experienced by those who are forced to pay for government’s continued corruption and waste. I.e., those who exist merely because of the continuing huge cradle-to-the-grave welfare programs have no incentive to rock the boat that keeps them dry. The rest of us would seriously consider sinking that very boat and replacing it with a new government that is once again based on a Constitution that stressed individual freedom and responsibility, plus government accountability.

    So far, I see a government that is not accountable to any of us who are forced to support it financially, plus a rogue President who makes his own rules with his “phone and pen;” that is, when he isn’t on the golf course, on vacation or on fund-raising tours.

    I am a student of Alexis De Toqueville, the French political thinker and historian (who died in 1859). Here are some of his quotes:

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/465.Alexis_de_Tocqueville

  6. @ Smitty 550: Well said. We are way beyond any form of normalcy here. It is almost as if everyone in government, no matter which side of the isle they sit, are testing us to see just how far the public will tolerate being pushed.

    More often I feel the way our entire government is acting right now is unprecedented and therefore the time is appropriate that we rise up to take whatever action necessary to restore this Nation to its founding principles.

    However, I am certain that most generations experience this same feeling at one time or another and they managed to live through it. So at this point I have nothing historic to gage our current situation by, nor a way to know how extreme the solution should be.

    So the important question before us is – are we still in a stage of diplomacy or are we beyond that now? How does one know when it is truly time to exercise our duty to rise up against tyranny?

    I fear the time is near.

  7. G-man, yes, I am frustrated….frustrated in a system that has allowed Obama and Holder to withhold evidence that should have been available to the American people long ago…especially since Obama promised “transparency” by his own administration.

    As of April, 2014, The House Oversight Committee was still pursuing federal court litigation after the June 2012 House of Representatives voted to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents in Fast and Furious. President Obama exerted executive privilege to withhold information.

    This being the case, why should it take Judicial Watch to light a fire under the government to release these documents when the House Oversight Committee has already demanded that these same records be released? It seems like another prime example of a dog’s chasing its own tail.

  8. @ Smitty 550: I get your frustration. But also wish to remind folks that courts can’t arbitrarily act on their own. They have to have an issue formally brought before them through petition and only then may they take any action which may also include taking no action at all; but at least whatever choice a court makes will then become a matter of formal record. So really it was always up to us or Congress to get this ball rolling.

    Also, we must consider this petition unfortunately isn’t even of a criminal nature (yet). It wasn’t brought on by a legal entity such as Congress, but rather it was filed by the privately ran (donation funded) watch-dog organization known as Judicial Watch. And it doesn’t even force the release of the actual information, but rather a categorical list of every document that would have been released under Obama’s previous denial of a freedom of information request to this group. But this time around Obama is being ordered to provide a reason explaining why each document is so secret that he feels it deserves to remain protected from his release.

    Forcing Obama to provide such information is essentially more damning, painful and punishing than making him release the actual documents because now that Obama must provide written explanations clarifying each denial, will later afford more culpability in prosecutor evidence against him later down the road.

    So where immediate satisfaction should be derived by all of us is in this conservative group’s ability to prevail where Congress has previously failed – by forcing the Obama administration to lawfully have to answer to us (we the people) after they so contemptuously thought they had gotten away with refusing to answer to Congress via their executive privilege in the past.

    Yes it is sad that it took a private group to outsmart Congress to get to Obama, but at least we are finally getting somewhere. Even then, it is yet to be known whether Congress will act upon anything found in this new information. My hunch is someone very clever select group within Congress that is secretly steering this entire movement in concert with the Judicial Watch to begin with. They know the wheels of justice may be slow, but if you know how to use them, they are steady.

    Just my thoughts though. It’s not as if I have any inside info on any of this (wink wink).

  9. Right….I’ll believe it when I see it. I have lost all faith in the court system that has been bought and paid for by this corrupt administration. Why has it taken this long for some court….ANY court…..to pick up the Guidon?

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