The Opaque Administration

The administration’s claim to transparency is as credible as its promise to close Gitmo.

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights transmitted its report on DOJ’s handling of the New Black Panther Party (“NBPP”) matter to the president and Congress. Among other things, the report detailed DOJ’s prodigious stonewalling of the commission’s investigation — DOJ’s refusal to release personnel to testify before the commission and DOJ’s withholding of reams of pertinent documents.

The president wrote a letter in response (perhaps more accurately, a White House functionary wrote a letter to which the president affixed his signature), proclaiming the “historic progress” his administration has made in increasing transparency in government.

The president’s formulaic response is completely disconnected from the facts surrounding DOJ’s conduct during the commission’s NBPP investigation. Despite being compelled by statute to cooperate fully with the commission’s investigation, DOJ

  • refused to answer 18 separate interrogatories

  • refused to provide witness statements for 12 key witnesses

  • refused to respond to 22 requests for production of documents

  • failed to provided requested e-mails between Civil Rights Division personnel and other DOJ officials regarding DOJ’s dismissal of the NBPP lawsuit

  • barred two key DOJ attorneys from testifying (both of the attorneys defied DOJ and testified before the commission at considerable risk to their careers)

  • failed to provide even draft pleadings in the NBPP case

  • invoked specious privileges in order to withhold critical information but failed to invoke executive privilege

  • refused to provide a privilege log

DOJ’s obstinacy during the investigation was astonishing. During my tenure on the commission, no governmental agency or department has ever refused to comply with the statutory mandate that all agencies cooperate fully with the commission’s investigations.

The NBPP investigation was but one inquiry — the one with which I’m directly familiar. Is this level of stonewalling a pattern and practice throughout this administration?

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