Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More obsessive administration secrecy

First we had the White House declaring that its visitor logs were classified. Now, in yet another example of the "none of your damn business" school of government, it turns out the vice president has done the same.

A lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney told the Secret Service in September to eliminate data on who visited Cheney at his official residence, a newly disclosed letter states. The Sept. 13, 2006, letter from Cheney's lawyer says logs for Cheney's residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory are subject to the Presidential Records Act.

Such a designation prevents the public from learning who visited the vice president.


Note that there is no high-minded principle involved here. The White House classified its logs to keep people from finding out how many times Jack Abramoff had visited. Cheney classified his logs to keep people from finding out how often he was visiting with leaders of the religious right.

The records are preserved and go into the presidential records of the Bush administration. But other Bush orders (facilitated by none other than Alberto Gonzales) give administrations the right to keep documents out of public view forever.

It's time for Congress to address such government records clearly and directly, spelling out that they are public documents that can only be withheld for certain narrow reasons -- and avoiding embarassment or the judgement of history are not among them.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me strange---but I think that a President and Vice President should still have some amount of a private life left. Why is it our business to know about each and every visitor to their PRIVATE residences???? We're going to have a hard time finding anyone to fill these high-level elected offices if we insist on cuting them off from a private life for 4 to 8 years.

JP5

5/29/2007 10:35 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Never mind that every previous administration got along just fine without classifying their visitor logs.

A list of visitors is hardly an invasion of privacy. Especially in a publicly owned house where the occupants regularly conduct official business. The public is entitled to know who they're conducting business with.

And I'd be more impressed with the "they deserve some privacy" line if the moves toward greater scrutiny weren't directly tied to politically embarassing visitors.

5/29/2007 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But here's the problem with it. Someone visits. The name is released and then in an effort to find some dirt, the press starts to investigate the name. And heaven forbid they discover that a Republican donor has visited!! Wow----surprising that someone who donates to the Republicans might be a friend of the VP or President. And so what if a "politically embarrasing" person visited one of them. Doesn't mean the VP or the President knew anything about what their visitor had done. Are you saying that the Clinton's knew what all Marc Rich had done at the time he visited? So, does that make THEM automatically guilty of it as well??? It's rather McCarthy-like, this "guilt by association"....don't you think?

And if you think Monica Lewinsky got "logged in" every time she visited, think again. You cannot swear that every visitor before has been known---because you don't know if they were formally logged in or not. I recall there being an awful lot of discussion about that during the Clinton years.

Isn't this a continuation of the witch hunting?

JP5

5/30/2007 10:28 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Wow, JP5. Quite a leap from merely knowing who is visiting to "guilt by association" tactics. So your argument is that the information should be secret because partisans might misuse it? Better classify everything, then, and have no transparency or oversight in government.

Monica worked in the White House. That aside, I'll agree the logs don't account for every single visitor. So what? That's not an argument for keeping them secret.

5/30/2007 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then why don't we have each Senator and Congressman or woman provide us logs of their visitors as well? This is ridiculous on it's face----that elected officials are not allowed to have any private life at all. I don't think that most of us really care to know.

JP5

5/30/2007 7:26 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Then why don't we have each Senator and Congressman or woman provide us logs of their visitors as well?

As far as their office and their schedule, I believe we do.

Beyond that, individual Congress members are nowhere near as powerful, policywise, as either the President or the VP (in this administration, especially).

elected officials are not allowed to have any private life at all.

Oh, please. Can the hyperbole.

I don't think that most of us really care to know.

You may be right. Still not an argument for keeping it private.

5/31/2007 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you REALLY want to know who comes and goes in the private residences of the White House and the VP's home?

And are you just as "curious" when they are Democrats?

JP5

5/31/2007 12:52 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Why do you REALLY want to know who comes and goes in the private residences of the White House and the VP's home?

Most of the time, I personally don't care. I just want public information to be public, so that it's available when needed.

For instance, visitor logs were central to the claim that Clinton was "renting out" the Lincoln Bedroom -- and claims that Bush did it, too.

And are you just as "curious" when they are Democrats?

I support open records on principle, regardless of who is in power.

5/31/2007 9:14 PM  

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