A federal judge Tuesday ordered the disclosure of a government-wide foreign aid directive President Barack Obama signed in 2010 but wanted to keep hidden from the public, Politico reports. The judge called the scope of the government’s argument for “presidential communications privilege” rather “troubling.”
The Department of Justice has argued that the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development was covered by executive privilege, even though the information is “non-classified” and sends directives to agencies not to the president of the United States.
“Acting on a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Center for Effective Government, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle concluded that the presidential order is not properly within the bounds of the so-called ‘presidential communications privilege,’” Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports.
In her opinion, Huvelle wrote there is “no evidence that the [directive] was intended to be, or has been treated as, a confidential presidential communication.”
The Obama administration has maintained that the document was only intended for those who “need to know,” but the judge argued the order was “distributed far beyond the president’s close advisers and its substance was widely discussed by the president in the media.”
Huvelle also lectured the federal government on its “cavalier attitude” when it comes to public oversight and transparency.
“The government appears to adopt the cavalier attitude that the President should be permitted to convey orders throughout the Executive Branch without public oversight…to engage in what is in effect governance by ‘secret law,’” she wrote.
The Obama administration will now be required by law to make the document available. It’s unclear why the administration has fought to keep the document hidden from the public.
The White House website refers to the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development as the “first of its kind by a U.S. administration.” WhiteHouse.gov also provides a “fact sheet” about the directive here.
Read Huvelle’s entire opinion here.