Executive Privilege In ‘Fast And Furious’ Probe Should Come As No Surprise

The Obama administration ratcheted up the fight over the controversial “Fast and Furious” program, asserting executive privilege to withhold documents demanded by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif).

In a letter to Issa, the Justice Department asserted the privilege applies to documents that explain how the department first learned there were problems with the investigation spearheaded under the Bush administration. On its face that sounds like a reasonable assertion of the privilege for starters, and it hardly encompasses every document requested by Issa. Any internal investigations and communications on the program should have at least some protection in order to promote an environment where internal concerns can be aired and investigated and remedial action taken without fear of exposure for political gain. But the move will undoubtedly anger congressional Republicans who have jumped on the bungled gun-smuggling operation as a way to crucify Attorney General Eric Holder who, as the Department of Justice’s top prosecutor, has re-invigorated DOJ’s Department of Civil Rights division much to the dismay of the right.

There’s a saying in the law that privilege is a shield and not a sword, meaning that its protections are just that–protections rather than a tool to move a party on the offense or to shield evidence that damages their claims or defense. The scope of the documents Issa requested go well beyond the reasonableness of any oversight exercise and demonstrate the political nature of his inquiry, as does the contempt vote scheduled for later today. In any other circumstance asserting a claim of privilege over some of those documents would be a non-story and a non-event. Indeed, it is a routine practice in any contested matter. But because this is Issa and Congressional Republicans, it is making news. There’s also a difference between endorsing the actions of DOJ under the program and demanding congressional Republicans refrain from abusing the oversight process, another nuance likely to be missed in the coverage of this story.

There is probably plenty to be critical of DOJ in ‘Fast and Furious’ and congressional hearings are usually the first step in finding some answers. But politicizing the oversight process does absolutely nothing to promote transparency and accountability. And let’s be honest, transparency and accountability were never Issa’s strongest characteristics.

Photo from ryanjreilly via flickr.

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Bill Reese
Bill Reese3 years ago

Beth, it is not illegal to release the files unless it has to do with American Security. Just to protect the president or Holder does not fall under National Security. I feel bad that I have to explain that to you, as you are one of the thinking progressives on this site and I know you will take the time to look up what I just said to satisfy your own thoughts.

Have a nice day, and God Bless America,

Bill Reese
Bill Reese3 years ago

JH it is sad that so many are limited by what the main stream News media feeds them and are not willing to look outside the box.

JH Mccallum
JH Mccallum3 years ago

Bill R and Paul B,

Thanks for bringing the facts to this site. (it ain't easy!)

Bill Reese
Bill Reese3 years ago

This whole mess by Holder and Obama was designed to entrap US gun dealers and make the 2nd amendment go away, so of course they do not want to produce all the communication. They never told the Mexican authorities what was going on and they did not care that the Cartel would get hold of the weapons. There were no chips place on the guns for tracking as when the Bush "Wide Receiver" program was going on.
Fast and Furious was specially designed to try and rid the US Constitution of the 2nd amendment. Now that they are caught we should rid the US Administration of Holder and Obama.

Bill Reese
Bill Reese3 years ago

Good Point wesley, Ask for all the documents from both administrations, I still do not think Obama (though he has never discussed the F&F) will release Holders. Remember a few months ago when Mr. Holder knew nothing about the Fast and Furious? Why did he say that? or does he have a selective memory?

Bill Reese
Bill Reese3 years ago

Beth, You are correct up to a point as the US Supreme Court under the Nixon administration ruled that executive privledge only applies to documents pertaining to the security of our Nation, however any document that shows criminal activity is not protected. Now who determine this, I really do not know, I am assuming it will be an independent Counsel that would make that decision.

How are you doing? Okay, I hope your spring is better than our spring in the Northwest.

Christine C.
Christine C.3 years ago


Kenny West
Kenny Wes3 years ago

Fast and Furious had nothing to do with Brian Terry's death, the gun that killed Terry was bought legally in an Arizona gun shop. Stop using him for political gain. It was a botched law enforcement sting operation. So was the Iraq war, get some perspective. Brian Terry died bravely protecting the borders from drug runners supplying this country it's drugs,, using him and his parents this way is a shameful republican stunt.

Rudy Boleslav
.3 years ago

First of all, he shoud be called AG Eric With-Holder.

There are 2 US government officiers dead, border agent and undercover ATF agent, because of this. Why does he not just apologize to the families and resign!! Outrage. With-Holder is far worse an AG than John Ashkroft was.


Beth K.
.3 years ago

Bill R., strange that a constitutional scholar like you claim to be, would not know that it would be illegal to release the files.

What a balloon you are!