Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law, Practice and Recent Developments
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
Pagination or Media Count:
Presidential claims of a right to preserve the confidentiality of information and documents in the face of legislative demands have figured prominently, though intermittently, in executive-congressional relations since at least 1792. Few such interbranch disputes over access to information have reached the courts for substantive resolution, the vast majority achieving resolution through political negotiation and accommodation. It was not until the Watergate-related lawsuits in the 1970s seeking access to President Nixons tapes that the existence of a presidential confidentiality privilege was judicially established as a necessary derivative of the Presidents status in our constitutional scheme of separated powers. Of the eight court decisions involving interbranch or private information access disputes, three have involved Congress and the Executive, but only one of these resulted in a decision on the merits. The Nixon and post-Watergate cases established the broad contours of the presidential communications privilege. Under those precedents, the privilege, which is constitutionally rooted, could be invoked by the President when asked to produce documents or other materials or information that reflect presidential decision making and deliberations that heshe believes should remain confidential. If the President does so, the materials become presumptively privileged. The privilege, however, is qualified, not absolute, and can be overcome by an adequate showing of need. Finally, while reviewing courts have expressed reluctance to balance executive privilege claims against a congressional demand for information, they have acknowledged they will do so if the political branches have tried in good faith but failed to reach an accommodation. The appendix includes Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege from the Kennedy Administration through the Bush II Administration.
- Information Science
- Government and Political Science
- Sociology and Law