As the Bush Administration prepared to leave office, its Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) publicly released a number of opinions written during the Bush Presidency. Some of these were written years ago, some much more recently, and some had been transmitted to the Congress, but not yet published. While this public release is surely welcome, it still leaves a large body of undisclosed legal opinions from the outgoing administration. Propublica and the ACLU are both monitoring a rather long list of as-yet-undisclosed memos, most of which are subjects of outstanding oversight requests from both the Senate and the House. Not all of these opinions address questions of executive authority; OLC writes opinions on matters of constitutional law, statutory and regulatory interpretation that do not implicate executive authority. But in its role as the “president’s law firm,” OLC regularly advises the President and others in the executive branch on matters of executive authority.
Several of the OLC memos that do concern executive authority also deal with matters that have some immediate on going significance, because they deal with responses to congressional requests for information that may be renewed in the 111th Congress. When and if they are, we will have a chance to compare directly the views of the Obama Administration to those of the Bush Administration. One of the recently released memos deals with the Valerie Plame affair. (more…)