Judge: DOJ Must Produce List of Fast & Furious Docs by Oct. 22

By Susan Jones | September 26, 2014 | 8:04am EDT

Audience members applaud Attorney General Eric Holder, right, and President Barack Obama after Obama announced that Holder is resigning, on Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) - Two days before Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation, a federal court ordered the Justice Department to produce, by October 22, a detailed list of Fast and Furious documents sought by a conservative watchdog group.

Judicial Watch requested the documents in a June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Three months later, in September 2012, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit, seeking all of the documents the Obama White House was withholding from Congress under a claim of executive privilege.

This week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Justice Department must submit a "Vaughn Index" of the requested documents by October 22 -- a three-week extension of the earlier Oct. 1 deadline set by the court.

A Vaughn index identifies each document withheld; explains the legal basis for withholding the documents; and explains how their disclosure would be a problem. Basically, in this case, it forces the Justice Department to justify withholding the information that Judical Watch has sued to obtain.

On July 18, U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates ordered the Justice Department to produce the document list by October 1. In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Bates denied DOJ's motion to extend that Oct. 1 deadline to Nov. 3, one day before the midterm election.

Bates said the Justice Department's argument that it needed even more time was "unconvincing.”

"[S]seventy-five days -- plus another twenty-one, based in part on Judicial Watch’s consent -- is enough time for the government to prepare the index that this Court has ordered, given that this matter has been pending for over two years," the ruling said. "The Court will therefore extend the Department’s Vaughn index submission deadline to October 22, 2014 -- and no further."

“The Obama administration failed to game the courts and now will have to account for its Fast and Furious lies," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

“This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in the face of all this lawlessness...We are pleased we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of others who lost their lives as a result of Obama’s Fast and Furious program.”

While Judicial Watch has proceeded with its FOIA litigation, the House of Representatives separately voted 255-67 in June 2012 to hold Holder in contempt of Congress over his refusal to produce Fast and Furious documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight Committee the previous October.

President Obama, on the eve of that contempt vote, asserted executive privilege over the subpoenaed documents, something Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Darrell Issa called "a calculated political maneuver designed to stop the release of documents until after November’s elections."

The documents in question may explain a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to cover up its reckless, and ultimately deadly, tactics to allow guns purchased in the United States to flow to Mexican drug cartels for purposes of tracing them. One of the guns allowed to cross into Mexico was later found in the United States, at the scene of Agent Brian Terry's murder.

In its Sept. 25 news release, Judicial Watch noted that on September 9, another federal judge in Washington -- Amy Berman Jackson -- ordered the DOJ to begin producing Fast and Furious information to Congress by November 3, but the Justice Department is seeking a delay in that case as well.

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