A federal judge ruled on Thursday that the FBI must release its June 2004 interview with then-Vice President Dick Cheney concerning the leaking of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The Bush and Obama administrations have both sought to keep the interview secret, but Judge Emmet Sullivan has determined (pdf) that there is no reason for it to remain sealed now that the Plame investigation has concluded:
“The Court concludes that the agency has failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the requested documents were properly withheld in their entirety under any FOIA exemption protecting law enforcement interests. Limited portions of those documents, however, were properly withheld under exemptions designed to protect information that is privileged or that could impinge on personal privacy or threaten national security.”
CREW’s executive director issued a statement expressing satisfaction that “Judge Sullivan rightly rejected a Justice Department interpretation of the FOIA that would have allowed the government to withhold virtually any law enforcement record even where an investigation has long since been concluded. We are disappointed, however, that the judge allowed DOJ to withhold portions of some records because the American people deserve to know the truth about the role the vice president played in exposing Mrs. Wilson’s covert identity. High-level government officials should not be permitted to hide their misconduct from public view.”
Justice Department attorneys told Judge Sullivan last summer that they intend to appeal any order to release the documents.
Rep. Henry Waxman first issued a subpoena for the FBI interviews with Cheney and others in June 2008, citing both testimony by Lewis “Scooter” Libby and a book by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan as suggesting that Cheney might have been involved in the outing.
When the Justice Department refused on grounds of executive privilege, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information request, followed in August 2008 by a lawsuit.
In arguing against the lawsuit, the Obama administration has suggested that future presidents and vice presidents might refuse to cooperate with criminal investigations if they knew their statements might become public.
“If we become a fact-finder for political enemies, they aren’t going to cooperate,” a Justice Department attorney told the court last spring. “I don’t want a future vice president to say, `I’m not going to cooperate with you because I don’t want to be fodder for ‘The Daily Show.’”