The secret history of the Justice Department’s Nazi hunting efforts isn’t secret anymore.
After scrolling through this fascinating history, I’m having a hard time understanding the justification for not releasing the full report. The DOJ had earlier released a redacted version under a Freedom of Information Act request.
“The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears,” President Barack Obama wrote in a Jan. 21, 2009 memorandum instructing government agencies to have a presumption of openness to FOIA requests.
Yes, there was an embarrassing headline for the government. “Nazis Were Given Safe Haven in the U.S.,” the Times reported, citing information that U.S. intelligence officials had allowed some Nazis to resettle in the U.S. The report also described some DOJ missteps, such as the misidentification of a guard at the Treblinka concentration camp known as Ivan the Terrible.
But the Justice Department is the lead agency tasked with ensuring compliance with Obama’s openness directive. What here was so sensitive? Most of the Nazis are long dead.
Authorized in 1999 by then-Attorney General Janet Reno, the report was the brainchild of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard in the Criminal Division. Richard, who died last year from cancer after four decades at the DOJ, oversaw the now-defunct Office of Special Investigations, charged with deporting Nazi war criminals who’d immigrated to the United States.
Richard fought up until his last days to get the report to the public. “I spoke to him the week before he died, and he was still trying to get it released,” Judith Feigin, the prosecutor who wrote the report, told the Times. “It broke his heart.”
Indeed, the report itself says that it is intended “to serve as a teaching and research tool for historians, the media, academics, policy makers and the general public.”
I hope there won’t now be an investigation into who leaked the document.