Federal Judge Orders Release of Energy Task Force Documents

The legal wrestling match between Vice President Dick Cheney and critics of his secretive energy task force took a dramatic turn yesterday, when a federal judge ordered several federal agencies to release thousands of documents relating to their work with the task force. The order stemmed from a case filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Judicial Watch against Cheney based on the Freedom of Information Act. NRDC charged that even if the president and VP are protected by executive privilege, employees of other federal agencies who worked with the task force aren’t — they were not, as Cheney’s lawyers claim, temporary employees of the executive branch. The judge gave the agencies — including the Department of the Interior and Department of Energy — until June 1 to examine and release the documents. Cheney is expected to appeal. The case is one of three that has sought information about the task force — one, by the General Accounting Office, was dismissed; another, by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch, is pending before the Supreme Court.