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Appeals court sets back White House's secrecy efforts
Associated Press
Published: Friday July 11, 2008

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A federal appeals court on Friday set back the White House's efforts to keep the names of its visitors secret.

The Washington court threw out the government's appeal in the case in which a watchdog group is trying to find out how often prominent religious conservatives visited the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's residence.

Despite the ruling against the White House, the decision does not necessarily mean that visitor logs will be subject to public disclosure.

The White House can still raise a variety of legal arguments in an attempt to keep the identities of White House visitors secret.

But appeals court Judge David Tatel said the document request from the private group is narrowly drawn and can be processed.

The document request from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington would not require the president, Cheney or their staffs to sort through mountains of files, said Tatel.

The burden "should prove minimal," Tatel added.

The case now goes back to U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who ruled that White House visitor logs are public documents subject to disclosure requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Bush administration argued that releasing those documents would trample on the president's right to seek private, confidential advice.

White House calendars are not normally considered public, but Lamberth said logs maintained by the Secret Service are not covered by that exemption.