Friday, January 05, 2007

White House secrecy -- literally

In its continued quest to claim the title of "most secretive administration in history" -- a title that many observers think they've already won by a landslide -- the Bush administration has now classified White House visitor logs.

The five-page document dated May 17 declares that all entry and exit data on White House visitors belongs to the White House as presidential records rather than to the Secret Service as agency records. Therefore, the agreement states, the material is not subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

In the past, Secret Service logs have revealed the comings and goings of various White House visitors, including Monica Lewinsky and Clinton campaign donor Denise Rich, the wife of fugitive financier Marc Rich, who received a pardon in the closing hours of the Clinton administration.

The memo last spring was signed by the White House and Secret Service the day after a Washington-based group asked a federal judge to impose sanctions on the Secret Service in a dispute over White House visitor logs for Abramoff.

And now for the irony:

In the mid-1990s, a conservative group, Judicial Watch, obtained Secret Service entry logs through a lawsuit.

Secret Service records played a significant role in the Whitewater scandal in the 1990s, supplying congressional Republicans with leads to follow in their investigations of the Clintons.

A decade ago, Senate investigators used Secret Service logs to document who visited the White House during the fundraising scandal surrounding
President Clinton's re-election campaign.

Good for the goose -- but, apparently, not good for the gander.

I thought reclassifying declassified material was ridiculous. But this is truly ridiculous. And a transparent attempt to hide material that is merely embarassing rather than sensitive.

I hope Bush is either forced to retract the memo, or the case moves quickly to the courts for a ruling. A hearty helping of ridicule and yet further reduced political capital for the president is also in order.

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