A federal judge has concluded that enough is enough, and the Department of Justice must respond properly to a federal Freedom of Information Act case brought over its handling of the Fast and Furious scandal.
U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates ruled Wednesday that by Oct. 22, the DOJ must submit a “Vaughn index” listing Fast and Furious materials Judicial Watch sought in its June 2012 Freedom of Information Act request and a subsequent September 2012 FOIA lawsuit.
The index identifies each document withheld, why it’s being withheld and explains how its release could damage someone.
In the Obama administration’s Fast and Furious operation, federal agents oversaw the delivery of guns and other weapons to straw purchasers who turned them over to Mexican drug cartels. An estimated 2,000 weapons were part of the operation, but only about one-third were recovered, and no high-level cartel figures were arrested. One of the guns tracked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was found at the scene of the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.
The government watchdog organization explained the ruling denied a motion by the Obama DOJ that it be given until Nov. 3 to produce the Vaughn index.
Judge Bates said the DOJ request showed “at best, it means the department has been slow to react to this court’s previous [July 18, 2014] order.”
“At worst, it means the department has ignored that order until now.”
Judicial Watch asked for documents that were withheld from the U.S. House of Representatives by Obama on a claim of executive privilege.
The court’s decision brought satisfaction to several interested in the outcome, including the sister of Terry.
Kelly Terry-Willis said in a Townhall report that the announcement of Holder’s resignation Thursday suggests there’s something in the documents that Americans need to know.
“I do not find it a coincidence that Eric Holder chose now to resign after Judge Bates denied the request from the DOJ to delay the release of the Fast and Furious documents,” she said. “I personally think Eric Holder was really hoping that the documents would never be made public to my family and the American people.
“I have a serious gut feeling when we finally see what is in those documents … the dynamics of this investigation are going to change and hopefully the people involved are brought to justice. Eric Holder can run, but there will be no hiding.”
The U.S. House separately also is litigating over the documents.
The index was supposed to be provided by Oct. 1, but the DOJ wanted an extension. The federal court refused to grant the DOJ permission to wait until the day before the election, instead setting an Oct. 22 deadline.
Judge Bates said: “[S]eventy-five days – plus another twenty-one, based in part on Judicial Watch’s consent – is enough time for the government to prepare the index that this court has ordered, given that this matter has been pending for over two years. The court will therefore extend the department’s Vaughn index submission deadline to October 22, 2014 – and no further.”
Bates found the government’s argument for even more time is “unconvincing.”
He acknowledged the government’s claims: that there’s a lot of work, a lot of paper files and other concerns.
But Bates noted “the department has known about its Vaughn index obligations since July 18, 2014.”
“The Obama administration failed to game the courts and now will have to account for its Fast and Furious lies. Two federal courts have now rejected Eric Holder’s election-related ploy to keep this information from the American people,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in the face of all this lawlessness. This latest court ruling shows again that Judicial Watch’s independent investigations and lawsuits are more effective than Congress and the rest of media. We are pleased we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of others who lost their lives as a result of Obama’s Fast and Furious program.”
Judicial Watch has predicted that guns from the Fast and Furious scandal will be used in criminal activity for years to come.
Holder was held in contempt by the House of Representatives, JW said, “over his refusal to turn over documents about why the Obama administration may have lied to Congress and refused for months to disclose the truth about the gun-running operation.”
“It marked the first time in U.S. history a sitting attorney general was held in contempt of Congress.”
Judicial Watch also has several other FOIA actions pending over Fast and Furious, including efforts to obtain records given to the House Oversight Committee, records of communications involving federal officials and details about attacks on a whistleblower in the case.
WND reported when Fitton said the information could, for the first time, provide specific details about “who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people.”
Judicial Watch said the documents at issue are about how and if the Obama administration misled Congress about the Fast and Furious matter.
The DOJ claimed turning over the documents would interfere with the department’s continuing litigation with the House Oversight Committee concerning documents subpoenaed in October 2011. And in September 2012, Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents.