Suit over Ashcroft "reclassifying" info

Published June 23, 2004 7:33PM (EDT)

Another case of the Bush Administration's pathological penchant for secrecy is in the courts today with a new lawsuit from the Project on Government Oversight. From the organization's press release: "The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) sued Attorney General John Ashcroft and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today over the DOJ's reclassification of information that alleges corruption, incompetence and cover-ups in an FBI translation unit."

"The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asks the court to find the DOJ's May reclassification of information unlawful and unconstitutional and require the agency to declassify the information. The information relates to allegations made by whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI linguist who was fired after reporting to superiors numerous instances of wrongdoing in the FBI translation unit where she worked."

"This information was presented by the FBI during two unclassified 2002 briefings held by the Senate Judiciary Committee and was referenced in letters from U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) to DOJ officials. The letters were posted on the senators' Web sites, but were removed after the DOJ reclassified the information. POGO has the letters and wants to post them on the Web to initiate public debate."

"'We believe the Department of Justice reclassified the information to stifle congressional oversight of the department and shield it from legitimate public inquiry,' said Danielle Brian, POGO's executive director. 'It is absurd to reclassify information that has been in the public domain for so long. This is an entirely inappropriate use of the classification system.'"

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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