The Department of Justice missed a court-ordered deadline to release portions of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ security clearance form, but complied a day later by releasing a one page, “heavily redacted” version of the document, according to the group that requested it.
The court order came after a watchdog group called American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March asking for sections of Sessions’ security form that disclose his contacts with the Russian government. When the Department of Justice didn’t provide the information, the group filed a law suit, according to an NPR report.
The group asked for portions of Sessions’ Standard Form 86 that discloses information about the attorney general’s contacts with “any official in the Russian government.” The requested forms are required documentation for any governmental officials who seeks security clearance. In June, a judge ordered the Department of Justice to respond to the FOIA request by July 12.
On deadline day, the DOJ sent the watchdog group a letter saying it couldn’t respond to most of the group’s FOIA request because the requested information included: “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;” “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;” and “would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.”
The watchdog group doesn’t buy the Department’s defense.
“Jeff Sessions is our nation’s top law enforcement officer, and it is shocking one of his first acts after being named attorney general was to lie to the FBI on an issue of national security. From Jeff Sessions to Jared Kushner to Donald Trump, Jr., the President’s closest confidants appear to have collective amnesia about their dealings with the Russian government,” the group’s executive director, Austin Evers, said in a statement.
The one-page document from the Department of Justice contains no detailed information, other than a check next to the “no” box in response to the question: “Have you or any member of your immediate family in the past seven (7) years had any contact with a foreign government, its establishment (such as embassy, consulate, agency, military service, intelligence or security service, etc.) or its representatives, whether inside or outside the U.S.? (Answer ‘No’ if the contact was for routine visa applications and border crossing related to either official U.S. Government travel or foreign travel on a U.S. passport.)”
Since his confirmation hearing, Sessions has admitted to speaking with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., which he did not previously disclose.
American Oversight is requesting the portions of the same document that White House adviser Jared Kushner has had to revise for failing to divulge meetings with Russian officials.
See the response to the watchdog group’s lawsuit and the letter from the Department of Justice below: