Justice Department Withholds Audio Involving President Citing AI Risks

 June 2, 2024

The U.S. Department of Justice has chosen not to release an audio recording of an interview conducted between President Joe Biden and former special counsel Robert Hur.

According to Washington Examiner, this decision is based on fears that the audio could be manipulated using artificial intelligence.

In its rationale for non-disclosure, the DOJ highlighted the detrimental effects such a release could potentially have on law enforcement operations. It underscored the possible chilling effect on witness cooperation in current and future investigations as well as significant privacy violations.

Bradley Weinshower, the Associate Deputy Attorney General, stated deep concerns about the possible outcomes of releasing such sensitive material. According to him, making this audio public might discourage witnesses' participation in vital investigations.

Deepfake Concerns Influence DOJ's Decision

Deepfake technology allows for the manipulation of audio and visual content to create deceptive representations of original recordings. These technological advancements have raised concerns about the authenticity of such materials if made public. The fear is that malicious alterations could distort and misrepresent the original content, creating false narratives. This is particularly problematic in high-stakes environments like national security or criminal investigations.

"Disclosure of that record is unwarranted. Release of the audio recording would threaten critical law enforcement interests by chilling the potential cooperation of witnesses in current and future sensitive investigations. In addition, disclosure would constitute a significant invasion of privacy. ... These privacy harms are amplified by the threat of malicious manipulation of audio files that has recently become much more acute," the Justice Department argued in filings.

Legal Battles Over FOIA Requests

Despite the DOJ’s stance, multiple organizations are challenging the decision. CNN, The Heritage Foundation, and Judicial Watch have each filed lawsuits following their unsuccessful requests for the audio under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Their pursuit is motivated by a passion for transparency, significant given the high-profile nature of the interview, which pertained to President Biden's handling of classified documents.
In his testimony, Robert Hur made observations about President Biden’s condition, suggesting that although the president exhibited memory lapses, he did not show willfulness in mishandling classified information.

Former Special Counsel Discusses President's Mental State

During his last duties as special counsel, Robert Hur evaluated the mental state and capabilities of President Biden, describing him as "an elderly man with a poor memory." This characterization came during a crucial conversation regarding how President Biden dealt with classified documents.

Despite these descriptions by Hur, the decision not to press charges was based on the determination that there was no willful mishandling of the documents by President Biden. This finding tallies with Hur's later testimonies.

"If the audio recording at issue here were released, that would exacerbate the foregoing concerns, because it would demonstrate to future witnesses that recordings of interviews may be released (and thus become highly public) even for investigations that result in no criminal charges," Bradley Weinsheimer further noted.


Shortly before stepping down in March, Hur addressed these matters before the House Judiciary Committee. Subsequently, the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees issued subpoenas demanding the release of the interview audio, escalating the situation into a broader legal skirmish. The Department of Justice's resistance to releasing the audio remains firm, despite these supported efforts by various panels. Their stance is predicated on the preservation of confidentiality and trust, essential elements in sensitive investigations.

The decision by the Department of Justice to withhold the audio recording from an interview with President Joe Biden underscores the complications emerging from advanced technological abilities such as AI and deepfakes. It also illustrates the ongoing battles for transparency as organizations continue to challenge this withholding in courts, emphasizing the intricate balance between public interest and maintaining effective law enforcement operations.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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