White House Refuses to Release Visitor Logs

In a disappointing decision that flies in the face of government transparency, the Obama Administration has rejected requests to release White House visitor logs to the public. On Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint against the Department of Homeland Security based on the refusal of the Secret Service to provide CREW with White House visitor records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In refusing to release the logs, the Obama Administration claimed that the records are presidential records and not subject to release because they could reveal information protected by the presidential communications privilege – the same claim made by the Bush Administration. According to the Washington Post, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs that said the Obama Administration is reviewing its policy regarding the release of logs. In prior litigation, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the visitor records are agency, not presidential, records that must be disclosed under the FOIA.

Judge Lamberth’s name may ring a bell with many of you. Formerly the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, he honored us as a guest speaker at last year’s Annual Meeting in Portland, OR during the program, Explore the Secret Workings of the FISA Court. He also spoke about public access to electronic information from the courts during our 1999 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Judge Lamberth was appointed was appointed United States District Judge for the District of Columbia in 1987 and became Chief Judge on May 1, 2008.

You can read CREW’s complaint, FOIA request, and the Secret Service’s response on CREW’s Web site. We will continue to monitor this issue and encourage President Obama to follow through on his pledge to create “an unprecedented level of openness in Government. ”

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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