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Bush administration invoking secrecy defense to avoid Abramoff files release

[JURIST] The Bush administration is invoking a secrecy defense known as Glomarization [DOJ backgrounder] to avoid disclosing hundreds of documents concerning White House visits by former lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive], according to AP citing court papers filed Friday. The administration is relying on a 1976 US Supreme Court ruling in Phillippi v. CIA, a case which arose in the context of inquiries concerning an alleged CIA connection with the Glomar Explorer, Howard Hughes' submarine retrieval ship. Phillippi established the right of government agencies to flatly deny the existence of records pertaining to investigations, if acknowledging the existence of the records would, in itself, reveal exempt information. The Department of Justice claims in the Abramoff case that releasing the requested information would reveal sensitive information about Secret Service's protective function. The administration's denial comes despite a promise last year to produce all records concerning Abramoff.

In October, US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee [official website] Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) called on the White House to disclose hundreds of documents [JURIST report] relating to Abramoff. Abramoff pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in January 2006 to two conspiracy and fraud charges stemming from the 2000 purchase of the SunCruz Casino [corporate website] as part of a plea agreement [PDF text] with federal prosecutors that would reduce his punishment in exchange for favorable testimony in future DOJ corruption cases. AP has more.

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