Crucial Decision on Government Secrecy and Checks and Balances Still to Come
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that had held that it did not have the jurisdiction to review an order by the district court requiring the disclosure of documents from the energy advisory committee headed by Vice President Cheney in 2001 during the discovery process. The Supreme Court did not decide the secrecy issue, but directed the Court of Appeals to rule on Cheney’s claim that he cannot be subjected to the discovery process.
“Excessive secrecy is the enemy of effective accountability,” said People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has failed to send a clear message to the most secretive administration in recent memory. We know all too well how dangerous power without accountability can be. It is crucial that the decisions to come in this case protect the public’s right to know and the constitutional system of checks and balances.”
In 2001, President Bush established an advisory committee on energy policy, and appointed Cheney chairman of the committee. After the committee made its suggestions, the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch filed suit arguing that that the advisory committee violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and that the committee should release its documents to the public. The documents may reveal whether the advisory committee’s recommendations were biased in favor of the energy companies whose officials and lobbyists participated in the meetings. PFAWF filed an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court in support of the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch’s position.