Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Public documents are -- get this -- public

You may recall that in January, we discovered that the White House's penchant for secrecy had reached such an extreme that they had classified the White House visitor logs, elevating West Wing visits to the level of state secrets.

At the time, I hoped that Bush would be forced to retract the move. Today, I get my wish.

White House visitor logs are public documents, a federal judge ruled Monday, rejecting a legal strategy that the Bush administration had hoped would get around public records laws and let them keep their guests a secret.

The administration, true to form, is expected to appeal the ruling. In addition, they went venue shopping:

The Bush administration had sought to have the case moved to another judge by consolidating it with a similar lawsuit before U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, an appointee of President Bush.

Lamberth, who served in the Justice Department before President Reagan put him on the federal bench, has roiled Democratic and Republican administrations alike with rulings rejecting government secrecy claims.

I'm happy to report, however, that that move failed:

On Monday, Collyer and Lamberth agreed to consolidate the two Abramoff-related cases before Lamberth, even though Collyer, in accordance with long-standing courthouse practice, would have dealt with both because the case she was hearing was the older of the two.

I suspect Collyer didn't want the hassle of ruling on a case involving the man who appointed her.

In any case, the principle of open records has been preserved for now. We'll see if the administration decides to push it further up the ladder. They may decide to give it a try just to string the case out until Bush's presidency ends, after which interest in Bush's visitor list will shrink significantly. That's obnoxious, but it's their right. My main concern is that the openness be preserved in the end, so that future inhabitants can't pull the same shenanigans.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody remember how it was ruled for Clinton back when he wanted them kept secret when he was being investigated??

But then, I guess he had no penchant for secrecy, eh? At least I never heard any Dem claim such.


12/23/2007 7:38 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

If you click on the first link in the post, which leads to my original post on the subject, Clinton, whatever his efforts, was unable to keep the logs secret. To quote:

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.

Bush attempted something Clinton never did.

12/25/2007 4:34 PM  

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