Attorney General William P. Barr will decide how much of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings and conclusions to share with Congress and the American people. Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee he would try to be as transparent as possible while abiding by the Justice Department’s long-standing tradition of protecting the privacy rights of the innocent. That makes sense, but past departmental practices suggests he can release far more details than many people may now realize.
Providing detailed information about a completed investigation of intense public interest has long been a part of Justice Department practice. It doesn’t happen often, because ordinarily nothing outweighs the privacy interests of the subject of an investigation that ends without public charges. But department tradition recognizes that transparency is especially important where polarized politics and baseless attacks challenge law enforcement’s credibility. In critical matters of national importance, a straightforward report of what facts have been learned and how judgment has been exercised may be the only way to advance the public interest.