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Cheney task force secrecy case still alive

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information    

Cheney task force secrecy case still alive

  • A federal appeals panel rejected the government’s efforts to throw out a cases brought by Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club to determine whether Vice President Cheney’s energy task force violated the openness provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

July 8, 2003 — Vice President Richard Cheney’s task force on energy must comply with a district court’s orders in cases brought to determine if the task force violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act in closing off access to the task force, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled today in a split decision.

The government had asked the court to order a lower court to drop demands that it provide documents or give reasons why it would not in lawsuits brought by the Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch and by the Sierra Club challenging the legality of the task force’s activities toward developing a national energy policy. It also asked the court to dismiss the case.

Lawyers for the government said, without elaboration, that separation of powers required by the U.S. Constitution prohibited the court from ordering any records to be made available from the vice president.

Writing for the majority, Judge David Tatel said that the government had not shown any potential harm from disclosure that would merit such an unusual order prohibiting a lower court from demanding discovery. The case should proceed, Tatel wrote.

The public interest groups had sued to force the energy task force to comply with FACA. That act generally requires open meetings and records of groups convened by the government so that it can solicit advice. The act only applies if some group members are from outside government, and although the government claimed that only Cheney and agency heads comprised the total task force, the public interest groups pointed to numerous industry officials who were involved in creation of the national energy policy the task force produced.

(In re Cheney; attorneys: Larry Klayman, Washington, D.C., and Sanjay Narayan, San Francisco) RD

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