Holding the Government Accountable

Navy Avoids Giving Members of Congress Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Docs

The Navy continues to play games when it comes to releasing critical information about the water contamination at Camp Lejeune—this time, by dodging the document request made by nine Members of Congress, the Project On Government Oversight learned today. But the fight for more information on Camp Lejeune is far from over.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in March, asking him to deliver them a comprehensive set of records related to Camp Lejeune within two weeks, unredacted. You wouldn’t think that the Navy would be able to weasel out of that request, but they did anyway -- by invoking the Privacy Act.

“Because this repository contains [personally identifiable information], we may not release un-redacted records without an official request from a committee or subcommittee of jurisdiction in writing” Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work wrote in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Work maintains in his letter that the Navy “supports and funds Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) studies to investigate [the health allegations.” However, he fails to address the allegations by the author of a recent ATSDR report that the scientific integrity of his report was compromised by redactions requested by the Department of the Navy, which oversees the Marine Corps.

Originally, in requesting the redactions, the Navy cited security concerns about releasing “critical infrastructure information.” However, the information that is kept secret happens to be related to the location of certain water wells which were contaminated for more than 30 years—and are still active. As we’ve said repeatedly, there is a strong case that the public interest outweighs the national security concerns.

Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) responded to the Navy with an official committee letter. In the letter, the senators wrote:

We urge you to comply with the letter and spirit of FOIA by promptly making all of the information contained in the Camp Lejeune Repository Documents available to the American people. Because the Camp Lejeune Repository Documents have already been compiled, we ask that these documents be delivered to the Committee within one week.

We’re looking forward to hearing what the Navy has to say next.