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Most transparent administration ever adopts Bush visitor log policy

By Michelle Malkin  •  June 16, 2009 10:11 AM

Didn’t Obama tell his followers to elect him so they didn’t get four more years of Bush?


Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is filing 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). CREW sought records of visits by top coal executives in an effort to learn the extent to which these individuals may have influenced the administration’s energy policy. Taking the exact same position as the Bush administration, the Obama administration claimed the records are presidential, not agency records, and otherwise exempt in their entirety because of the possibility in some instances they could reveal information protected by the presidential communications privilege. In prior litigation U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with CREW that the records are agency records that must be disclosed under the FOIA.

Related story at MSNBC.com:

The Bush position was rejected in December 2007 by Judge Lamberth, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan. Lamberth gave the White House 20 days to hand over the public records. But CREW did not get the visitor logs.

In September 2008, Homeland Security said that it did not plan to release the visitor logs, claiming that the visitor logs were protected by the presidential communication privilege in the law.

Judge Lamberth ruled again, denying that claim on Jan. 9. The judge wrote that a simple list of visitors is not a communication at all, because it includes no details on the topics discussed during a meeting, and therefore is not protected by a presidential communication privilege.

The Bush administration appealed on Jan. 14, a week before the end of President Bush’s term of office.

In late January and again in May, the Obama administration had opportunities to change course, when it filed papers in the appeals court, but stuck with the Bush position.

In February, the White House spokesman, LaBolt, told msnbc.com that the policy was under review. “We are reviewing our policy on access to visitor logs and related litigation involving the previous administration to determine how we can ensure that policymaking in this administration happens in an open and transparent way, and that we take appropriate measures to ensure that we are operating in a secure environment.”

But last week, in denial letters to msnbc.com and CREW, the Secret Service continued to cite the Bush position.

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