A federal court has ruled that the Obama Department of Justice must turn over to the non-profit watchdog group Judicial Watch an index of materials related to the “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal that were withheld by the White House under executive privilege claims.
Judicial Watch sued because the government didn’t respond to its Freedom of Information Act requests in June and September of 2012.
The ruling by Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia forces the Obama DOJ, for the first time, to provide a Vaughn Index, a detailed listing of all documents that it has withheld from Congress about the scandal along with justification for each withholding.
“Once again, Judicial Watch has beat Congress to the punch in getting key information about another Obama scandal – this time, the Fast and Furious outrage,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Fitton said the information could, for the first time, provide specific details about “who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people.”
“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.” Fitton said.
“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,” he said.
Guns tracked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were found at the scene where Terry was killed in December 2010.
Fast and Furious was a DOJ and ATF “gun-running” sting operation in which the Obama administration allowed guns to be sold to illegal straw buyers so they could be tracked to Mexican cartel dealers. But only about one-third of the 2,000 weapons monitored were recovered, and no high-level cartel figures were arrested.
Judicial Watch said the documents at issue are about how and if the Obama administration misled Congress about the Fast and Furious matter.
The DOJ claimed turning over the documents would interfere with the department’s continuing litigation with the House Oversight Committee concerning documents subpoenaed in October 2011.
In September 2012, Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents.
The ruling announced Thursday by Judicial Watch, which took place July 18, overrules the Obama Justice Department’s request for an almost indefinite hold on the organization’s legal right to obtain the information under the Freedom of Information Act, the judge said.
The court will require the DOJ to turn over a Vaughn Index of documents, arguing many of the issues to be resolved in the case do not overlap with the House committee’s case.
In fact, the court suggested that disclosing information to Judicial Watch might resolve the legal case between the Obama administration and Congress that is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson.
Judge Bates said no court has ever “expressly recognized” President Obama’s executive privilege claims that his administration is using to keep the documents secret from Congress.
The Judicial Watch lawsuit for Oversight Committee documents is one of several FOIA lawsuits it has filed to obtain information about scandal: