Court says White House visitor records are FOIA-able..

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A solid ruling on White House visitor records, at last. A recent Obama appointee to the federal bench, at that…note that Judicial Watch was suing the Obama folks to make legally binding a policy the White House was claiming it was doing voluntarily. If only this had been handed down, say, any time in American history before Obama began divulging White House visitor records….

White House visitor records maintained by the Secret Service are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and must be disclosed if not covered by one of the law’s exemptions, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell issued the decision on a lawsuit brought by a conservative legal watchdog group, Judicial Watch. The group’s suit sought White House access records from January to September 2009, when President Barack Obama instituted a new and unprecedented policy of releasing the names of nearly all White House visitors.

In the case, Obama’s Justice Department took the position the government had under the Bush administration: that the White House visitor records were not subject to FOIA because they belonged to the president and not the Secret Service. However, Howell rejected that argument.

“The Secret Service argues that it is unable to dispose of the records freely because they are ultimately White House records and not agency records. This argument is circular,” Howell wrote in her 19-page ruling (posted here). “The claimed restrictions on disposal stem from the defendant’s assumption that the documents are under Presidential control — the exact point that the defendant seeks to prove to establish that the documents are not subject to FOIA.”

The Justice Department also argued that the records could implicate national security issues, but Howell said that was no reason to declare all the data requested by Judicial Watch to be beyond the reach of FOIA.

Given the Obama policy to release this information going forward, the implications of Howell’s ruling could be limited. However, if the decision is upheld, it means that what the White House has touted as a voluntary disclosure policy would not be voluntary any more.

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On Obama’s Decision Not to Release the Osama Photos…

Hamid Mir interviewing Osama bin Laden for Dai...

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I read, then re-read, then re-read that headline, to make sure I didn’t transpose the names like Fox…

Anyway, Obama has made his call: he is not releasing the Bin Laden photos, not voluntarily, anyway. His reasoning is hard to argue with, at first blush.

In explaining his choice not to release the photo, Mr. Obama said that “we don’t need to spike the football.” He said that “given the graphic nature of these photos it would create a national security risk.”

Speculative? Yes. Does the United States government have a less-than-stellar record when it comes to the transparency of certain newsworthy military engagements (see, Lynch, Jessica; also Tillman Pat…)

Anyway, unless he seeks another one-off FOI exemption like he did for the second batch of Abu Ghraib photos, this FOI request might force his hand.
Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20059739-503544.html#ixzz1LPkdbFZG

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Obama Visitor Logs: Riddled With Holes

South façade of the White House, the executive...

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The Obama administration talks up the importance of government transparency, but White House visitor logs are anything but. That’s according to a new investigation by iWatch News. The White House website proudly boasts of making available “over 1,000,000 records of everyone who’s come through the doors of the White House” via a searchable database. Yet our analysis shows that the logs routinely omit or cloud key details about the identity of visitors, who they met with, the nature of the visit, and even includes the names of people who never showed up.

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