The most transparent White House ever? NOT. Obama’s DOJ seeks FOIA exemption for visitor records

By pams
Saturday, May 1, 2010 21:40 EDT
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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reports that the Obama administration through its Justice Department, is continuing to argue that it has the right to shield White House Visitor Logs, citing they should be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Now as we saw yesterday, the administration is currently complying with the law, having released hundreds of thousands of WH appointments. That is why you learned that there were 88 visits by various HRC board members, along with Joe Solmonese and David Smith, who traipsed through the WH doors over the last year — and we have zero major LGBT legislation passed so far.

No wonder the Justice Department wants your eyes off of who is getting face time with key WH figures. It’s pretty sad when we’re on the same side as Judicial Watch, the conservative thinktank that filed a public records lawsuit over this in 2009 — and won.

In its initial complaint filed December 7, 2009, Judicial Watch noted that the Obama administration’s claim that the visitor logs are not agency records “has been litigated and rejected repeatedly” by the courts, although no appellate court has ruled squarely on the issue.

“The presidential communications privilege, as its name and the Circuit’s opinions suggest, extends only to communications,” Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia ruled in a similar lawsuit. “The visit records sought by plaintiff need only consist of the visitor’s name, date and time of visit, and in some cases the name of the person requesting access for the visitor and in some cases the name of the person visited.”

In the Obama administration’s latest filing, however, they claim that “the district court cases on which [Judicial Watch] relies for a contrary conclusion were incorrectly decided.” The government court filings also note the administration’s new discretionary release policy with respect to the visitor logs, and cite national security concerns as an additional reason for withholding the records.

“The Obama administration would undermine a key transparency law in order to keep White House visitor logs secret,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a release. “Only the Obama administration could offer to release pre-scrubbed White House visitor logs while withholding tens of thousands of other records and call it transparency.”

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