Congressman Artur Davis has just issued a press release making clear for the first time that the Department of Justice is defying the House Judiciary Committee’s probe into misconduct in connection with the political prosecution of former Governor Don E. Siegelman. Davis is a former career prosecutor with the Middle District of Alabama, the office that handled the Siegelman prosecution, and he clearly has good insight into the skullduggery that has been practiced in that office. Here’s the text of the Davis statement:
On September 4, 2007, the Department of Justice informed the House Judiciary Committee that it would not honor the Committee’s request for internal documents related to the prosecution of Don Siegelman. In my opinion, the Department’s position is too broad and has no sound legal basis.
None of these documents implicate privacy concerns of any known individuals. There has already been an extensive public airing of the allegations around Siegelman and his alleged co-conspirators, and it strains credulity to think that the protection of Siegelman’s reputation is a concern of the Department. Nor is there any statutory provision that ensures the confidentiality of internal Department of Justice deliberations. To the contrary, as the committee’s official response points out, there are several recent precedents for the department divulging deliberative materials relating to allegations of misconduct by the department.
The Department’s ultimate claim is the kind of expansive executive privilege doctrine this Administration has advanced before. In my opinion, the executive branch’s interest in keeping its deliberations secret has some weight, but it is at its weakest outside the context of national security and it must be balanced against Congress’s constitutionally derived authority of oversight. It cannot be that any government agency can unilaterally declare its decisions off limits to the very Congress that funds that agency and that passes the laws that agency enforces.
Finally, and most astonishingly, the Department seems to assert that Congress’s oversight role is somehow limited because some of the factual accusations surrounding the Siegelman case are, in the Department’s opinion, strained or not corroborated. It is simply not within the Department’s authority to make itself the arbiter of whether a congressional inquiry merits compliance. Surely an agency of lawyers is not so blind to the constitutional meaning of the separation of powers. “
Let’s rehearse the history of the document production request. First a FOIA request was submitted, and Justice responded with a blanket denial, and added that there were no documents responsive to the request. Subsequently the claim that there were no responsive documents was demonstrated to have been another in the long line of falsehoods to be peddled by Mrs. William Canary’s office in connection with this case. Then Congress demanded the documents in support of a hearing focusing on the now well-substantiated allegations of politically corrupted prosecution, the single most prominent and best documented of which comes out of Mrs. Canary’s office. In the face of this, the Justice Department arrogantly asserts it is immune from oversight.
Why the cold sweat and panic over at the Justice Department and in Mrs. Canary’s office? Here is an inference which any reasonable citizen could draw from these extraordinary efforts to hide the facts and avoid accountability: that the information would expose Mrs. William Canary and her career staffers as liars. This case cries out for a full investigation, exposure of the corrupt dealings underneath the surface, and the exoneration of those who have been its victims. The persecutors here want to continue living under a rock in the slimy environment they find most congenial. What this matter needs is the searing light of the sun. Let the facts be exposed, and the blame be assessed where it ultimately must fall: on those who abused a public trust in connection with the administration of justice.