Saturday, February 28, 2009
JUDICIAL WATCH INVESTIGATES
Immigration Enforcement / Illegal Aliens Judge: Gov't must provide records or say why not By NEDRA PICKLER WASHINGTON (AP) — A judge has ordered the federal government to turn over documents related to the shooting of a fleeing drug smuggler or explain why it's withholding them. The shooting led to the imprisonment and presidential commutation of two U.S. Border Patrol agents. Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, filed Freedom of Information Act requests two years ago with the departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security for records relating to the drug smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila. The departments did not provide any records, so the group filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington. In response to the lawsuit, the government said the Davila records were "clearly exempt" from Freedom of Information Act requests because they would be an invasion of privacy. Therefore the government did not conduct a search for all relevant records. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said the three departments must search relevant records and turn over any that are not exempt. It also must list any documents that are withheld and give a reason why so the court can review the decision. Davila, a Mexican, was transporting marijuana when he was shot by agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean near El Paso on the Texas-Mexico border. The agents tried to cover up the shooting, but were eventually prosecuted and served two years before President George W. Bush released them on his final full day in office. Several conservative lawmakers supported Compean and Ramos and took up the men's case, asking Bush for the commutation. Many people considered their case a part of the national debate over illegal immigration. Davila testified against the agents and was granted immunity. Judicial Watch says it wants the government's records to answer questions about the prosecution of the agents and how regularly the Justice Department offers immunity to drug smugglers to help prosecute U.S. law enforcement officers.