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Letter to Representative Moss Stating Administration Policy as to Claims of "Executive Privilege."

April 02, 1965

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I have your recent letter discussing the use of the claim of "executive privilege" in connection with Congressional requests for documents and other information.

Since assuming the Presidency, I have followed the policy laid down by President Kennedy in his letter to you of March 7, 1962, dealing with this subject. Thus, the claim of "executive privilege" will continue to be made only by the President.

This administration has attempted to cooperate completely with the Congress in making available to it all information possible, and that will continue to be our policy.

I appreciate the time and energy that you and your Subcommittee have devoted to this subject and welcome the opportunity to state formally my policy on this important subject.



[The Honorable John E. Moss, Chairman, Foreign Operations and Government Information Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, House Office Building, Washington, D.C.]

Note: In a letter dated March 31, 1965, Representative Moss requested the President to "reaffirm the principle that 'executive privilege' can be invoked by you alone and will not be used without your specific approval." The letter called the President's attention to the differences between the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations in the area of "executive privilege," as follows:

"In a letter dated May 17, 1954, President Eisenhower used the 'executive privilege' claim to refuse certain information to a Senate Subcommittee. In a letter dated February 8, 1962, President Kennedy also refused information to a Senate Subcommittee. There the similarity ends, for the solutions of 'executive privilege' problems varied greatly in the two Administrations.

"Time after time during his Administration, the May 17, 1954 letter from President Eisenhower was used as a claim of authority to withhold information about government activities. Some of the cases during the Eisenhower Administration involved important matters of government but in the great majority of cases Executive Branch employees far down the administrative line from the President claimed the May 17, 1954 letter as authority for withholding information about routine developments. A report by the House Committee on Government Operations lists 44 cases of Executive Branch officials refusing information on the basis of the principles set forth in President Eisenhower's letter.

"President Kennedy carefully qualified use of the claim of 'executive privilege.' In a letter of February 8, 1962 refusing information to a Senate Subcommittee, he stated that the 'principle which is at stake here cannot be automatically applied to every request for information.' Later, President Kennedy clarified his position on the claim of 'executive privilege,' stating that--

"'... this Administration has gone to great lengths to achieve full cooperation with the Congress in making available to it all appropriate documents, correspondence and information. That is the basic policy of this Administration, and it will continue to be so. Executive privilege can be invoked only by the president and will not be used without specific presidential approval.'"

Representative Moss' letter and the President's reply were made public by the Foreign Operations and Government Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations. They were not issued in the form of a White House press release.

For President Eisenhower's letter of May 17, 1954, see Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954, Item 113.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to Representative Moss Stating Administration Policy as to Claims of "Executive Privilege." Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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