If The Post editorial board and Mary McGrory had asked the Department of Justice about the House Judiciary Committee's investigation of our computer procurement practices, including the contract dispute with Inslaw, Inc., I believe they would have written a different editorial {"Another Inslaw Inquiry," Dec. 8} and a different column {"Nixon's Shadow Lengthens," Dec. 6}.

If the editorial writer or the columnist had asked, he or she would have learned that the attorney general has directed that the department cooperate fully with the committee's investigation. Hence, the committee staff have conducted scores of interviews of department employees who were unaccompanied by department representatives, which is contrary to the usual practice.

The department has provided the committee staff with access to hundreds of thousands of documents, including documents related to the pending litigation with Inslaw. Indeed, a room was reserved in the department for the committee's exclusive use in reviewing the voluminous documents.

The department obtained a court order to permit committee access to certain Inslaw software, which culminated in the recent delivery of a truckload of material to the committee.

The department has produced all but a small fraction of the material requested by the committee in this investigation. The documents in dispute are the memos and notes of departmental attorneys assigned to defend the United States in the litigation brought by Inslaw. They are not factual materials that would be evidence in the pending case.

It is a basic principle of the American legal system that documents revealing the thought processes of litigators are confidential. Such documents, whether they belong to Inslaw or to the United States, cannot be obtained by the opposing party in litigation. The disclosure of the department's documents could be construed to permit access by Inslaw, which would be fundamentally unfair to the United States in the litigation -- to the detriment of the American taxpayers, who stand to lose more than $9 million in this litigation.

Additionally, Mary McGrory failed to note that hearing witness Elliot L. Richardson was chairman of the board of directors of Inslaw's predecessor entity, the Institute for Law and Social Research, and he is Inslaw's primary attorney.

W. LEE RAWLS Assistant Attorney General U.S. Department of Justice Washington