WASHINGTON – The Bush administration blacked out almost all the information in hundreds of documents before releasing them to a conservative organization looking into President Clinton's (search)controversial pardons four years ago on his last day in office.
The only items not deleted from the material are the names of the person who wrote the document and the person it was sent to.
The government accountability group Judicial Watch (search) said Friday that it received the Justice Department documents following a court battle that featured a Republican administration fighting to keep secret documents generated by its Democratic predecessor.
The Bush White House (search) has argued that releasing pardon-related documents would have a chilling effect on internal discussions leading up to presidential action on such requests.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton (search) called it an instance of the Bush administration covering up a Clinton administration scandal.
The group plans to return to court to challenge the deletions, which cover nearly everything that is written on a total of 915 pages.
A federal appeals court ruled a year ago in the case that the White House can't claim Justice Department records are covered by a special exemption from the law reserved for presidential communications.
Among the 140 people Clinton pardoned on Jan. 20, 2001 was fugitive financier Marc Rich. Rich's wife, a Democratic fund-raiser, contributed $450,000 to Clinton's presidential library foundation and more than $100,000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's U.S. Senate campaign.
Rich's name does not appear on any of the 915 pages.
The department invoked exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (search) that allow deletions for reasons such as documents being part of internal deliberations or containing personal information.