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Long-Withheld Office of Legal Counsel Records Reveal Agency’s Postwar Influence

Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University: “Documents released in our FOIA lawsuit for OLC legal opinions issued prior to 1994. This Reading Room contains all of the documents produced to date in Francis v. Dep’t of Justice, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit the Knight Institute filed on behalf of five scholars, Campaign for Accountability, and the Institute on August 21, 2019, seeking formal written opinions issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) prior to February 15, 1994. The OLC is a component of the Department of Justice that issues legal opinions that bind federal agencies and officials on matters of significant public concern. In the past, the OLC has avoided disclosing its opinions under the Freedom of Information Act by invoking a privilege that protects government deliberations. In 2016, Congress amended FOIA to eliminate that privilege for records over 25 years old. This lawsuit takes advantage of that amendment. Here, you can browse more than 350 opinions written by the agency and dozens of indexes containing the titles and dates of the OLC’s unclassified opinions for a given year. Ultimately, the OLC will produce indexes of unclassified opinions for all years between 1945 and February 15, 1994. This FOIA litigation is part of the Knight Institute’s broader effort to vindicate the public’s right of access to the OLC’s formal legal opinions. In another case, Campaign for Accountability v. DOJ, the Institute has argued that FOIA requires the OLC to publish its legal opinions presumptively, even in the absence of any FOIA request seeking their release…”

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