Tuesday, December 18, 2007

White House visitors logs are public records

A Federal Judge on Monday dealt a blow to the pathologically-secretive Bush administration and ruled that the visitors logs created and maintained by the Secret Service are public records. Turns out that the people have a right to know who is dropping by to call on the president and vice president. Those records have traditionally been reviewed by the media and watchdog organizations to keep tabs on who is bending the president's ear. Leaders of the so-called "Christian right" like Gary Bauer, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell were among the visitors the judge ordered be revealed yesterday.

The case stemmed from the Abramoff corruption scandal. Recall that aWol tried to deny he knew the super-lobbyist; then moved to classify the records that would show how many visits Jack A. had paid to the peoples house.

To that end, the current cabal tried to float the ludicrous notion that the visitors logs were "presidential records" and thus are not available under the Freedom of Information Act.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth rejected this argument, saying the records qualify as "agency records" subject to disclosure. He also rejected the claim that the records should be kept secret to preserve the confidentiality of presidential and vice presidential deliberations, noting that even a Cheney aide testified that the purpose of the visits is not apparent from the documents.

"Knowledge of these visitors would not disclose presidential communications or shine a light on the President's or Vice President's policy deliberations," Lamberth wrote in his opinion.

Melanie Sloan, Executive Director for CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) issued the following statement: "CREW is pleased that the judge saw through the White House's transparent attempts to hide public documents from the American people. We look forward to sharing the documents we obtain through this lawsuit."

The White House, meantime, isn't ready to comply. In a 'circling the wagons' email message sent out right after the ruling, Tony Fratto predictably wrote "We are reviewing the decisions by the U.S. District Court in the cases and will discuss our options with counsel. As these issues remain in litigation, we will not comment further at this time."

It is likely that the White House will appeal the ruling. The grounds on which they will appeal won't likely move the ball down the field, but it will serve to run some time off the clock. And isn't that the likely legacy of this administration? Limping to the finish and running out the clock?

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