Group Sues Over Missing DOJ E-mails

May 12, 2010 Updated: May 12, 2010

A nonprofit group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), is suing the Department of Justice (DOJ) over its unresponsiveness to requests for more information about missing e-mails connected to justification of torture.

In February 2009, DOJ issued a report looking into the role of former high-ranking Office of Legal Counsel officials John Yoo and Patrick Philbin in a set of memos that technically authorized torture when interrogating enemy detainees outside of the United States (torture memos).

In the report, the DOJ concluded that their investigations had been hampered by the fact that all of John Yoo’s e-mails, some of which had discussed the legality of harsh methods of interrogation, were missing. Patrick Philbin’s e-mails, from the relevant period of time, were also missing.

CREW requested more information regarding staff policies for handling e-mails. The requests repeatedly went unfulfilled. Government e-mails are considered public documents under the Freedom of Information Act. In response to the DOJ’s lack of cooperation, CREW decided to file a complaint against the DOJ.

Anne Weismann, chief counsel working on the CREW lawsuit, said, “We are trying to figure out whether this is a case of corruption, or a simple case of missing e-mail. But it seems very suspicious that there are no records of e-mails for John Yoo at all and no e-mails from Patrick Philbin during only the relevant time period.“

The Department of Justice did not return calls for comment.