Rejecting the Bush administration’s latest effort to hide Cheney energy task force deliberations from the public, U.S. District Court Judge Paul F. Friedman issued a ruling last week forcing the administration to make public the records of the task force’s executive director and other federal agency employees responsible for the task force’s day-to-day operations.
The Department of Energy had refused to provide these records in response to a 2001 Freedom of Information Act request by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), arguing that federal agency employees were assigned to the Office of the Vice President, and therefore their records could be kept secret. Judge Friedman dismissed that argument, finding that “citizens’ right to know ‘what their government is up to,’ . . . cannot be defeated by detailing an agency employee to a task force operating out of the White House or some other non-agency.”
NRDC has been trying for three years to obtain these critical records, which likely will reveal the extent to which the task force staff met secretly with industry executives to develop energy policy recommendations. While previous court orders forced the administration to release records of the federal agencies that had participated in the task force’s work, the administration has steadfastly refused to release the records of the task force’s executive director and other relevant federal agency employees.