Daily Revolt

December 17, 2007

Judge: White House Visitor Logs are Public Documents

This is bad news for King George:
The White House must release its visitor logs and cannot hide behind a shield of privilege, a federal judge ruled Monday. The Bush administration has resisted public disclosure while it fights a lawsuit over alleged political influence by conservative Christian leaders.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth concluded the information is part of the public record and is subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act as "agency records."

"Because the Secret Service creates, uses and relies on, and stores visitor records, they are under its control," said Lamberth.

He ordered the Secret Service to produce records within 20 days.

[...]Congressional investigators used the records a decade ago in their investigations of the various Whitewater scandals involving President Clinton and his associates, as well as allegations of influence peddling by the Clinton campaign in the 1996 elections.

[...] Separate legal action by CREW and other groups, including Judicial Watch and the Washington Post, sought White House visitor logs that listed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He pleaded guilty last year to public corruption charges.

The White House and the Secret Service in 2006 signed an agreement that visitors to the White House complex were not subject to public disclosure. That "memorandum of understanding" was disclosed during legal action over the Abramoff records.

Lamberth called that a "self-serving" agreement because it was issued after the records were created and after the CREW lawsuit.

The judge, in a separate ruling Monday, said he lacked the authority to order the Secret Service to stop destroying its visitor records once copies were turned over to White House officials. But Lamberth noted the National Archives had to approve any destruction of the logs.

Another federal judge in Washington ordered the release of Secret Service logs of visitors to Vice President Dick Cheney's office. Cheney claimed those logs were subject to executive privilege. That ruling is being appealed.

You can bet the White House will attempt to stall the release of the logs until the very end of this President's term.

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