Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Policy Change in the OPA?

At least since the Carter administration - and probably well before that - the Public Affairs Office in the Department of Justice has issued a "memorandum" associated with each individual clemency decision of the president. As we understand it, from this point forward, the Office will only release a "Master Warrant Public Affairs Office Notice." Previously, the individual memorandum usually listed the name of the recipient, the offense, the punishment, provided information on counsel (if the recipient was represented) and listed character references and, in some instances, interested third parties (Senators, Representatives, etc.). The information, again, was provided with respect to recipients of clemency after the fact. Readers can see an example here.

As such, the memorandum was about the closest thing there was for researchers longing for the good old days of the amazingly transparent Annual Reports of the Attorney General (1889-1932). In response to a recent FOIA request to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, however, the FOIA specialist in the Department of Justice has written, among other things:

For your information, our Office no longer prepares individual public affairs notices, effective with the grants of executive clemency of November 24, 2008.
This change in policy is - apparently - "news" to several individuals who write and research on the pardon power. One wonders where it came from, and what the logic was behind it? Of course, as long as Obama grants no pardons, the new policy is not likely to become a point of concern. But it certainly seems contrary to general themes of the President's campaign (criticisms of the Bush administration, promises of greater transparency, etc.) PardonPower sincerely hopes Mr. Obama will deep-6 this new wrinkle (or rather, this "leftover" from the Bush administration) and encourage anyone associated with it to find some other position in government, some position very far away from the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Developing ...

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