Election 2012

Obama admin lawyers fight to obstruct public access to White House logs

Obama admin lawyers fight to obstruct public access to White House logs

A legal battle to give Americans more information about their own Commander-in-Chief has attracted some unlikely bedfellows. Representatives of the conservative-leaning watchdog organization Judicial Watch appeared Tuesday at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. to argue that the contents of White House visitor logs should be made available and accessible to the public.

Judicial Watch first sued the Secret Service over the logs in 2009, arguing that the administration was fighting transparency and the peoples’ right to know by keeping the logs classified.

The organization’s senior attorney Jim Peterson, who spoke with Human Events this week, said that the White House’s steadfast refusal to make the logs available epitomized a lack of transparency that has been characteristic of this administration.

“This is one of the best examples of that,” he said.

While the White House has twice this year released selected portions of visitor records, Peterson said these disclosures were misleading, pointing people only to what the administration wanted them to see.

“All they essentially did is say, well, you don’t have a right to these records, but we’ll make some of them available,” he said. “What they call voluntary disclosure is not disclosure at all.”

In its quest for the records, Judicial Watch has received the support of some unusual allies.

Eleven major media companies and media trade organizations signed onto an amicus brief supporting the lawsuit, and three cyber and government watchdog organizations filed a similar motion.

The media groups said in their brief that if the court upheld the lack of White House transparency, it would set a dangerous precedent that “may encourage federal agencies to seek to place millions of documents outside of (the Freedom of Information Act’s) ambit based on no more than their say-so, even in the face of express statutes and judicial orders directly to the contrary.”

Peterson said government lawyers maintained in oral argument that the White House would be forced to released sensitive information if they made the logs available, a point that ignores the fact that any records with the potential to compromise national security can be redacted under FOIA.

Now, he said, Judicial Watch and other plaintiffs await a ruling in the case, which may come near the end of the year.

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