Case file shouldn't be secret

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler has rejected a Department of Justice request to keep its investigation of Alaska Rep. Don Young under wraps.

That's a victory for the public interest -- even if it's no guarantee that the details of the investigation will be made public.

The department asked the judge to dismiss a request under the Freedom of Information Act for documents relating to Young's support for the Coconut Road interchange in Florida, sought by an individual who helped raise $40,000 for Young, and to Young's relations with Veco's Bill Allen and Rick Smith, both convicted in the Alaska political corruption case. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed the information request.

The department's argument was that no charges were filed and Young is entitled to his privacy.

The judge didn't buy it. She argued that there might well be a compelling public interest in knowing how Justice went about its business, why there were no charges filed and just what Young's dealings were. Rep. Young is not a private citizen but a public official. He's entitled to some privacy protection, but not at the expense of keeping the public in the dark.

So the judge has ordered Justice to produce an index of documents that might satisfy CREW's request and to justify why they should remain secret. After years of investigation and a Young legal defense fund that topped $1 million, the department can't just say never mind.

BOTTOM LINE: Judge right to force Justice to justify secrecy.