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DOJ officials couldn’t keep from laughing when they showed Judge Emmet Sullivan a clip from “The Daily Show,” a popular satire program, in which comedian Jon Stewart poked fun at a top counterterrorism official’s taped deposition statement that he didn’t know the difference between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. But it’s precisely that chuckling, and the potential abuse of the discovery process, that DOJ lawyer Lisa Olson said at a Sept. 8 hearing at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia she is afraid may happen if an unrelated deposition of former Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum is released. “It just creates a public spectacle that a transcript doesn’t,” Olson said. McCallum’s deposition is part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, over documents related to the DOJ’s 2005 decision to lower the civil penalties it was seeking against tobacco companies to $10 billion from $130 billion. The organization would like to make public the deposition video, which CREW lawyer Anne Weismann contends shows inconsistencies in McCallum’s testimony. Sullivan held off on a ruling but said he understood the government’s worry. “Is that supposed to be our job? To provide fodder for �Saturday Night Live’?” he asked. Sullivan appeared more skeptical about another government request, that the court order the return of e-mails printed from the computer of a former DOJ official, Sharon Eubanks, who now works at CREW, because the government believes they were stolen. “That’s a bold allegation,” Sullivan told Olson. Weismann said her organization received the e-mails from someone who had never worked at the DOJ. And after more than an hour of proceedings, Olson offered a compromise: CREW could keep the e-mails if they were put under a protective order. But that was a deal Weismann was not ready to accept.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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