A federal judge ruled Tuesday that President Obama cannot use executive privilege to prevent Congress from viewing records on Operation Fast and Furious, a gunrunning program that let thousands of firearms cross the border into Mexico.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who was nominated by President Obama to the bench, said the administration had to release the documents that it was withholding by citing executive privilege.
The judge wrote in her decision that the relevant information already made public by the Justice Department has mitigated the impact of any further disclosures because any damage resulting from deliberations “has already been self-inflicted.”
Jackson was not questioning Obama's executive privilege claim in itself but that it is rendered invalid by what the Justice Department has previously released.
The administration also has to hand over to Congress “attorney-client privileged material, attorney work product, private information, law enforcement sensitive material, or foreign policy sensitive material.”
The lawsuit dates back to a June 2012 vote in the House of Representatives to hold then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for not handing over the records.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives launched Operation Fast and Furious in 2009, and it lasted until 2011.
The ATF lost thousands of firearms as a result, two of which were linked to the 2010 murder of a Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
The Obama administration can appeal the ruling, but it is unclear if it will do so.