Policy: National Security

CREW sues to make Justice Department unit's opinions public

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Watchdog Blog,FBI,National Security,Eric Holder,Surveillance,Kelly Cohen,Ethics,Constitutionality,Accountability,FOIA

A government ethics and accountability group wants to know what the Department of Justice is hiding.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the department, Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General Virginia A. Seitz for public disclosure of opinions made by Justice's Office of Legal Counsel.

CREW said in its filing that the office's opinions "form a body of law that binds all federal agencies" when approving Justice policies and programs.

Yet, the office has refused to make public some of its "most significant and controversial opinions," such as those about the surveillance programs of the FBI and the National Security Agency.

"We are in the dark because OLC insists the opinions are privileged and cannot be disclosed to the public," CREW said.

"What did OLC conclude about the FBI's surveillance program? We don't know; in the face of a FOIA request OLC has stood firm in its opposition to public disclosure. What did OLC opine about the NSA's surveillance programs and massive data collection efforts? Again, we are in the dark because OLC insists the opinions are privileged and cannot be disclosed to the public," the group said.

The federal Freedom of Information Act requires executive branch agencies, including Justice, to make public "final opinions" and "statements of policy which have been adopted by the agency," according to CREW.

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