By DANA LIEBELSON
Pressure is mounting for the Navy and Marine Corps to stop concealing information related to the deadly contamination at Camp Lejeune. Yesterday, nine bipartisan Members of Congress sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, asking for a host of records related to the site to be delivered within two weeks—unredacted. The Members also informed Panetta that they are asking the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General to conduct an independent investigation of the Navy/Marine Corps’ use of FOIA exemptions and “For Official Use Only” markings to justify redactions of crucial information related to the contamination.
The letter is signed by an impressive bunch: Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representatives John Dingell (D-MI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Brad Miller (D-NC).
It comes on the heels of recent accusations by the sole author of a report on the Camp Lejeune water contamination. According to the report’s author, the scientific integrity of the report was compromised by legally questionable redactions requested by the Navy/Marine Corps, and granted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Department of Health and Human Services agency behind the report. Specifically, the author alleged that ATSDR gave Members of Congress “false and misleading” statements regarding the scientific content of the report.
This added even more evidence that the Navy/Marine Corps is serving its own interests by covering up this information—not those of the countless Marines, civilians, and their families harmed at Camp Lejeune.
“The Department of Navy has expended considerable efforts to prevent the disclosure of important documents to the public. We believe very strongly that this is not in the public’s best interests,” the letter said. “It is also inconsistent with President Obama’s statement that ‘…a democratic government accountable to the people must be as transparent as possible and must not withhold information for self-serving reasons or simply to avoid embarrassment.’”
POGO Director of Public Policy Angela Canterbury concurred and said, “It has been a really long fight for truth and accountability for Jerry Ensminger and the other victims of Camp Lejeune. I hope these Members of Congress are thanked well and often for standing up for them. It finally feels like the Navy/Marine Corps are running out of places to hide their wrongdoing.”
Dana Liebelson is POGO’s Beth Daley Impact Fellow.