Justice Department Argues To Keep Pardon Requests Secret


While President Obama has vowed to operate the most transparent administration in history, he is fighting to deny a journalist's request for the names of 9,200 individuals denied clemency by President George W. Bush and, by implication, the names of those who may be denied pardons by Obama down the road, reports Politico.com. “Pardon and commutation applicants have a substantial privacy interest in nondisclosure of the fact that they have unsuccessfully sought clemency,” the Justice Department told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,opposing the request by former Washington Post reporter George Lardner Jr. “The substantial privacy interest of the clemency applicants outweighs the negligible public interest in disclosure of their names.”

While the Justice Department is fighting to keep the list of denied pardon applications secret, it has long confirmed the names of pardon applicants and the status of the applications, including any denial, when asked about specific individuals. However, the government contends that disclosing that information about all pending applicants en masse would amount to an unjustified invasion of privacy. Last summer, a judge ruled in Lardner’s favor. “The fact that [the Office of the Pardon Attorney] freely releases the names of unsuccessful clemency applicants to the general public in certain circumstances casts significant doubt on OPA's claim that its records reflecting this information should be treated as confidential law enforcement records that must be protected,” Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote. The Justice Department argues that the ruling was wrong and even suggests that disclosing the list of nixed names could lead to violence against applicants.

Comments are closed.