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People's privilege

| Thursday, April 10, 2003

Thanks to the Bush administration's Justice Department, many of the details of Bill Clinton's end-of-office pardons -- including one for billionaire fugitive Marc Rich -- may remain secret.

A federal judge upheld President Bush's assertion of executive privilege over some of the pieces of the puzzle that would help reckon the metes and bounds of Mr. Clinton's personal and official corruption.

The freedom of information lawsuit by Judicial Watch sought documents relating to the pardons. The Rich pardon, which in all probability was engineered by his ex-wife, Denise, and some $1 million in contributions to the Clintons and other Democrats, was widely protested at the time.

"He's involved in $150 million in tax evasion, and the president (Clinton) just wiped it away," said Rudy Giuliani, who as the former U.S. attorney in New York had Rich indicted in 1983.

Larry Klayman, chairman and general counsel of Judicial Watch, said the administration does not wish to set a precedent that could expose it to embarrassments of its own down the road. He promises an appeal.

The party line from the White House is that robust and candid policy deliberations would be chilled if participants feared disclosure.

While the administration's rationale has superficial appeal, and the president's power to pardon is not reviewable -- as to the pardon -- we, along with Mr. Klayman and likely millions of other Americans, would like to know much more about the Clintonian double-dealing against justice. This one was a beaut.

The Bush administration's assertion of privilege over the documents was an overreaching of a prerogative it need not have exercised.

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