- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

A federal judge yesterday ordered half a dozen federal agencies to release records within the next two months related to Vice President Richard B. Cheney's energy task force.
The agencies must release the material promptly or itemize the documents they want to keep confidential so that a lawsuit filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch can proceed, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said.
Judge Friedman said the Bush administration has had sufficient time to collect thousands of pages of material from its files. The order also applies to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The administration argued that the case before Judge Friedman should be dismissed because it was filed a week too soon. But Judge Friedman refused to throw out the case, saying that some agencies still haven't responded to the document requests.
"In these circumstances, it would be putting form over substance to dismiss the complaint" and require Judicial Watch "to start all over again by filing a new complaint," Judge Friedman wrote.
OMB found 374 documents in its files on the Cheney task force and has released six of them, saying the rest should remain secret because they are internal agency memorandums.
Judge Friedman's decision is the second in two weeks by a federal judge setting a timetable for the prompt release of materials on the Cheney energy task force. The Bush administration is trying to keep confidential the names of industry executives and lobbyists who met with the White House as it formulated national energy policy a year ago and what the participants discussed.

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