Judicial Watch announced today that it received from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) a “Vaughnindex” detailing records about the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. The index was forced out of the Obama administration thanks to JW’s June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequentSeptember 2012 FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:12-cv-01510)). A federal court had ordered the production over the objections of the Obama Justice Department.They're trying desperately hard to conceal that "fast and furious" was an fatally failed attempt to try to gin up support for Obama and the Holder Justice Departments attempts to curtail gun rights.
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This is the first time that the Obama administration has provided a detailed listing of all records being withheld from Congress and the American people about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal. The 1307-page “draft” Vaughn index was emailed to Judicial Watch at 8:34 p.m. last night, a few hours before a federal court-ordered deadline. In its cover letter, the Department of Justice asserts that all of the responsive records described in the index are “subject to the assertion of executive privilege.”
The Vaughn index explains 15,662 documents. Typically, a Vaughn index must: (1) identify each record withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption. The Vaughn index arguably fails to provide all of this required information but does provide plenty of interesting information for a public kept in the dark for years about the Fast and Furious scandal.
Based on a preliminary review of the massive document, Judicial Watch can disclose that the Vaughn index reveals:
- Numerous emails that detail Attorney General Holder’s direct involvement in crafting talking points, the timing of public disclosures, and handling Congressional inquiries in the Fast and Furious matter.
- President Obama has asserted executive privilege over nearly 20 email communications between Holder and his spouse Sharon Malone. The administration also claims that the records are also subject to withholding under the “deliberative process” exemption. This exemption ordinarily exempts from public disclosure records that could chill internal government deliberations.
- Numerous entries detail DOJ’s communications (including those of Eric Holder) concerning the White House about Fast and Furious.
- The scandal required the attention of virtually every top official of the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Communications to and from the United States Ambassador to Mexico about the Fast and Furious matter are also described.
- Many of the records are already publicly available such as letters from Congress, press clips, and typical agency communications. Ordinarily, these records would, in whole or part, be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Few of the records seem to even implicate presidential decision-making and advice that might be subject to President Obama’s broad and unprecedented executive privilege claim.
But imagine being the poor judge who has to sort through this all and decide what is being legitimately withheld, and that which is being concealed for political purposes.