Court rules that Cheney may keep task-force deliberations secret

In a major political and legal victory for the Bush administration, a federal appeals court has ruled that Vice President Dick Cheney is not obliged to release records on his secretive 2001 energy task-force meetings, effectively ending the long-running legal challenge brought by the Sierra Club and open-government advocate Judicial Watch. The court originally ruled that Cheney had to cough up the documents, but the administration appealed to the Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the appeals court with the stern suggestion that it reconsider. It did. The ruling relates to the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act, which says government committees must seek advice in the open. Breaking with past rulings, the court narrowly defined what constitutes committee membership (having a vote or a veto) and essentially accepted at face value the word of senior administration officials that energy executives were not committee members thus defined. Said Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton, “Today’s decision means that now the public may never know the truth about how these policies were formulated.”