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Federal judge orders release of documents relating to failed law enforcement program

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday ordered a deadline of October 1 [press release] for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to provide a list of documents to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform [official websites] relating to the failed law enforcement program Operation Fast and Furious [materials]. The deadline follows US District Court Judge John D. Bates's ruling [opinion, PDF] that the DOJ must turn over to advocacy group Judicial Watch [advocacy website] a "Vaughn index" of all requested Operation Fast and Furious materials from the June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text, LII] request and subsequent 2012 FOIA lawsuit, Judicial Watch v. US Department of Justice [complaint, PDF].

Operation Fast and Furious was a failed DOJ investigation involving tracked guns that were permitted to travel from Arizona to Mexico in an attempt to stop weapons trafficking by high-level arms dealers. In 2012 the DOJ announced that it would not prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] after the Oversight Committee voted to hold him in contempt of Congress [JURIST reports] for failing to comply fully with the committee's subpoenas. Upon being held in contempt Holder responded [press release], "[t]oday's vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided--and politically motivated--investigation during an election year," and stated he would continue to focus on the government's job of protecting the American people. US President Barack Obama [official website] ultimately asserted executive privilege on the subpoenaed documents, effectively rendering the contempt charge moot. The DOJ submitted a joint staff report [text, PDF] to the committee in July 2011, discussing the effects of the admittedly failed operation in Mexico. The committee began investigating the operation [press release] through the DOJ's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives [official website] in April of that year.

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