14 Nov 2010

Justice Department Censors Nazi-Hunting History

The National Security Archive

National Security Archive Update, November 13, 2010
Archive FOIA request and lawsuit opens 45 redacted pages;

Breakdown of FOI system sparks leak of full 600-page report

Name of office head blanked out from text, also all "personal opinion" expressed;

Justice Department violates own Attorney General's directive on open government

For more information contact:

Tom Blanton - 202/994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Washington, DC, November 13, 2010 - The Department of Justice censored dozens of pages of a candid history of Nazi-hunting (and Nazi-protecting) by the U.S. government to such a self-defeating extent that former officials leaked the entire document to the New York Times this week, instead of fulfilling the Freedom of Information request and lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive and its counsel David Sobel.

"Now that we can compare the redacted document with the complete text of the original report, it is clear that the Justice Department is withholding information without legal justification," said David Sobel. "For an administration - and an Attorney General - supposedly committed to an 'unprecedented' level of transparency, this case provides a troubling example of how far the reality is from the rhetoric."

The National Security Archive submitted its FOIA request for the history of the Office of Special Investigations in November 2009, only to be denied by the Justice Department on grounds that the document - although completed in 2006 and never revised since then - was only a draft and was "predecisional" and therefore withholdable under the 5th exemption to the FOIA.

When our appeal met no positive response - despite President Obama's and Attorney General Holder's clear guidance on FOIA - the Archive filed suit in May 2010 in federal district court. Only after the lawsuit was filed did the Justice Department begin to "process" the document for release - which meant the wholesale application of the commercial product "White-Out" to sections of the document - deleting even the "personal opinions" of Congresswoman Liz Holtzman as she had expressed them in public as well as to the author of the history.

"Embarrassment suffered by public officials is the price they pay for public power," remarked Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive. "It goes with the territory, but here, their coverup is not nearly as bad as the crime, which was to shelter Nazi war criminals in the name of national security. This the public needs to know and has a right to know."

The Archive posted today its original FOIA request, the government's response, our appeal by counsel David Sobel, the legal complaint in the case National Security Archive v. Department of Justice, the interim response from DoJ, the "Vaughn index" of withheld pages and alleged justifications for the withholding, and the 45 pages of partial and highly-redacted response.

Read the article published today by the New York Times.

THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

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