Skip to comments.Access to Memos Is Affirmed
Posted on 02/22/2005 10:13:59 PM PST by Former Military Chick
The Justice Department has backed away from a court battle over its authority to classify and restrict the discussion of information it has already released, handing a local advocacy group a victory by granting it explicit permission to publish letters written by two senators that contain the contested information.
The case was considered a potential test of limits to the government's power to restrict access to information in the public domain on national security grounds. Former attorney general John D. Ashcroft had strongly defended the practice in this case by likening it to putting "spilt milk" back in a jar instead of simply saying, "well, it's spilt."
But the Justice Department, which got new leadership this month when former White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales took the reins, said in a Feb. 18 letter that the previously public letters by the two senators are "releasable in full."
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Charles Miller, said he was unsure whether Gonzales played a role in the decision.
At issue in the dispute were efforts by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), an independent watchdog group, to publish on its Web site letters written in the summer of 2002 by Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) to Ashcroft and others seeking an explanation for the FBI's alleged mistreatment of a whistle-blower, Sibel Edmonds.
Edmonds, a contract linguist, had been fired in March of that year after complaining that a Turkish American co-worker had contact with an organization targeted by an FBI terrorism surveillance program and that the linguist had mistranslated transcripts of classified conversations mentioning that organization. Edmonds did not take her dismissal quietly, and her case attracted the attention not only of POGO, but also of the American Civil Liberties Union and other whistle-blower support groups.
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