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Attorney General

How many DOJ legal opinions are classified? The number is a secret

Posted Feb 26, 2013 8:27 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Justice Department has 11 lists of classified legal opinions issued during the Obama administration. How many are on each list? The DOJ won’t disclose the number. Nor will it reveal the authors or even the names of many unclassified opinions.

The Huffington Post sought a list of every opinion issued by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel and received only partial answers. The number of opinions on the 11 lists is a mystery, though the department did reveal it issued 76 unclassified opinions. But many of the titles of the unclassified opinions have been redacted, and often the authors’ names were withheld because, an official said, it would "constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

No author is listed, for example, on the legal opinion on the president’s use of recess appointments, though the opinion (PDF) is signed by Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz, a former Sidley Austin lawyer who leads OLC. Also undisclosed is the name of the legal opinion on whether the president could ignore the debt ceiling limit.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, blasted Seitz last month for writing the recess appointments memo, calling her “a lackey for the administration,” Josh Gerstein's Blog at Politico reported at the time. Grassley said he was sorry the Senate had confirmed Seitz and “it’s likely to be the last confirmation she ever experiences." John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, had to fight a lawsuit and endure criticism for his authorship of the so-called torture memos.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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