The Bush Administration is seeking to use a new privilege argument to try, again, to withholding records of the visits of convicted lobbyist jack Abramoff to the White House. The new claims mirror the so-called secret service privilege that failed during the Clinton Administration.
The Bush Administration has been trying continually to withhold evidence from a court on the many and embarrassing visits of Abramoff to the White House. In filings last week, the Justice Department claimed that releasing the information would reveal aspects of the the secret service methods. This belated claim was made despite the fact that last year it agreed to release the material.
According to the DOJ, releasing the information is no longer possible because “[t]he simple act of doing so … would reveal sensitive information about the methods used by the Secret Service to carry out its protective function.”
This is very similar to the secret service privilege argued in the Clinton Administration. At the time, I represented five former attorneys general in opposing the privilege. We argued successfully against the privilege in federal court with Ken Starr arguing the same position as independent counsel. See Jonathan Turley, Praetorian Privilege, Wall Street Journal, April 27, 1998.
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