Assertion of Executive Privilege by the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission

Headnotes: 

Questions put to the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission regarding conversations he may have had with the President or his assistants in the White House come within the scope of the executive privilege, whereby information, papers, and communications which the President or the heads of the executive departments or agencies deem confidential in the public interest need not be disclosed to a congressional committee. In addition, the questions are within the scope of the President’s letter of May 17, 1954 to the Secretary of Defense setting forth the Administration’s policy that, in the public interest, advisement on official matters between employees of the Executive Branch of the government be kept confidential, and any conversations, communications, documents or reproductions concerning such advisement not be disclosed in congressional hearings.

Even if it were conceded only for the purpose of argument that the Atomic Energy Commission is a typical independent regulatory commission, which is not in one branch of the government to the exclusion of others but straddles at least two branches so as to be part of each, there is historical precedent indicating that, as to the executive functions of such a commission, its officers and employees have a right, and, when directed by the President, a duty to invoke the executive privilege.

The so-called fraud exception to executive privilege does not exist. The precedent for the so-called exception really evidences the unlimited discretion of the President to determine whether the public interest requires that the executive privilege be invoked or waived in a particular case.

Updated July 9, 2014