A Good Leak: DoJ Report on History of Nazi-Hunting

11.16.10 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In a revealing failure of Administration commitments to transparency, an official history of the U.S. government’s post-war pursuit of (or sometimes accommodation with) Nazi war criminals was obtained by the New York Times after the Department of Justice refused to release an unexpurgated version under the Freedom of Information Act.

The secret history was reported in “Nazis Were Given ‘Safe Haven’ in U.S., Report Says” by Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times, November 14.  The Times also posted the complete text of the document online.

A side-by-side review of the leaked and the redacted versions compels the conclusion that the Department of Justice exceeded its authority to withhold information from the public, and violated the disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. “Now that we can compare the redacted document with the complete text of the original report, it is clear that the Justice Department is withholding information without legal justification,” said attorney David Sobel, who represented the National Security Archive in its request for the document. “For an administration — and an Attorney General — supposedly committed to an ‘unprecedented’ level of transparency, this case provides a troubling example of how far the reality is from the rhetoric.”

But in a paradigmatic example of “a good leak” that advances the public interest, the unauthorized disclosure of the document succeeded where normal disclosure procedures failed.