Court - White House visitor logs can remain secret

Today we bring you the latest update on The Most Transparent Administration Evah.

A federal appeals court has ruled that the White House can keep secret some records of visitors who enter the building.

In a unanimous decision on Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that visitor logs for the Office of the President, at the center of the White House, are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Anti-secrecy organizations criticized the ruling as a barrier to public oversight.

“Decisions like this turn FOIA from a transparency law into a secrecy law,” Tom Fitton, president of the right-leaning Judicial Watch, told The Hill. He added that the decision was “unprecedented.”

There are times and places for secrecy and playing your hand close to the vest, as I’ve mentioned several times. This is particularly true when the government is planning a military action or dealing with global intelligence resources. We can find out about those things after the fact, and I’m fine with that. But with most matters of domestic policy issues the voters deserve a seat at the table. And the list of visitors to the Executive branch certainly doesn’t sound like something which is going to endanger national security.

While we’re on that subject, it’s worth noting one comment from the linked article – and many others – which leads us on a short trip down memory lane. Judicial Watch is being conveniently labeled as, “the right-leaning Judicial Watch.” That’s a very useful description if your sub-text is, “those conservative wing-nuts who just want to make trouble for the President because he’s a black Democrat.” But for our advanced students who have been paying attention in class for some time now, let’s hop in the Way Back Machine and take a trip to 2005.

At that time, questions were being raised – including by yours truly – about then Vice President Dick Cheney’s meetings with energy industry executives while determining national energy policy. That’s one of those domestic areas I mentioned where I believe we are entitled to be in on the discussion at the ground floor, so I too opposed keeping the guest list and content of those meetings secret. So who was fighting to make the information public back then and how were they described in left leaning publications like the Boston Globe? (Emphasis mine)

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that Vice President Dick Cheney will not have to release details about the role of energy executives in private meetings Cheney held to craft national energy strategies, a decision that probably brings an end to a long-running and politically charged lawsuit…

The decision, which the anticorruption group Judicial Watch called a ”defeat for open government,” means that the judicial branch will avoid the political nightmare of ordering the executive branch to produce records against its will. If that order had come, Cheney had vowed to invoke executive privilege, creating a constitutional separation-of-powers battle.

I see. So when they go after the Obama administration they are, “the right leaning group.” But if they’re going after the Bush administration, they’re the “anticorruption group.” Hmmm…

The Executive branch has been getting away with things like this for ages, fully aided and abetted by the Judicial branch. Apparently not much is going to change. But let’s stop pretending there’s some big difference between the two parties and that the Democrats somehow are more eager to let the voters in on what’s happening inside the walls of the castle. That’s just nonsense.