For Immediate Release
Most Yoo Emails Won't Be Found
WASHINGTON - The public likely will never learn the full truth behind the controversial torture memos authored by John Yoo, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the Department of Justice (DOJ). Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a report revealing how few of Mr. Yoo’s emails are in DOJ’s possession, despite a federal law mandating preservation of all federal records, including email.
In February 2010, DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) publicly released a report, first issued internally in July 2009, regarding OLC’s preparation of the torture memos, including Mr. Yoo’s role. OPR said the investigation was hampered by the loss of Mr. Yoo’s email records, which had been “deleted” and were “reportedly not recoverable.” As a result, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asked DOJ to investigate whether the deletion of the emails had violated federal law.
CREW filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for copies of all emails Mr. Yoo had sent or received and, after DOJ failed to respond, sued for the records. Eventually, OLC produced over 200 emails it had located in Mr. Yoo’s email account and withheld 151 others. Notably, almost none of the produced emails related to Mr. Yoo’s work at DOJ. Instead they involved topics such as his stint as an outside lecturer and publications he was preparing.
Following NARA’s request, DOJ uncovered more than 15,000 additional emails, including emails from another OLC official, Patrick Philbin, who also was involved in drafting the torture memos. From this new collection, DOJ shared 36 emails with congressional staff and eventually produced 15 to CREW with minor redactions.
“Even after congressional inquiries, internal DOJ investigations and outside lawsuits, Americans still know almost nothing about Mr. Yoo’s part in drafting some of the most repugnant policy papers to ever come out of the justice department. Mr. Yoo will never be held accountable for illegally deleting email to hide his role. Further, DOJ did little to try and salvage the email once it was discovered the emails were gone,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “
“This is a case study in how transparency is hampered when agencies fail to comply with their legal obligations to preserve and share records.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.