Eric Holder Favors Maximum Disclosure of OLC Memos


According to Secrecy News, the incoming Attorney General, who will be confirmed later today, has stated his position that Office of Legal Counsel memos should be made publicly available to “the maximum extent consistent with sound practice and competing concerns.”

“I firmly believe that transparency is a key to good government.  Openness allows the public to have faith that its government obeys the law,” Mr. Holder told Sen. Feingold.

More particularly, he said he favored maximum public disclosure of Office of Legal Counsel opinions.

“Once the new Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel is confirmed, I plan to instruct that official to review the OLC’s policies relating to publication of its opinions with the [objective] of making its opinions available to the maximum extent consistent with sound practice and competing concerns,” Mr. Holder wrote.

The Office of Legal Counsel provides authoritative legal advice to the Attorney General that often sets the legal policy of the administration. During the Bush administration, OLC memos were not available to the public and were often used to provide legal justification to many controversial programs and policies, including war time powers, the use of torture, secret prisons, warantless wiretapping, and extraordinary rendition.

As the Secrecy News article notes, ProPublica is providing a database of Bush era OLC memos on controversial topics.