Obama Administration Continues to Make Erroneous Claim that Visitor Logs are not subject to FOIA Law
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Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a “Motion for Partial Summary Judgment” in its lawsuit against the U.S. Secret Service asking the court to order the release of Secret Service logs of White House visitors from January 20, 2009, to August, 10, 2009. The Obama administration continues to advance the extraordinary and erroneous claim that the visitor logs “are not agency records subject to the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act].” As Judicial Watch noted in its complaint filed on December 7, 2009, this claim “has been litigated and rejected repeatedly.”
According to Judicial Watch’s “Motion for Partial Summary Judgment,” filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on February 22, 2010: “At issue here is whether Secret Service visitor logs are agency records subject to the Freedom of Information Act (‘FOIA’), 5 U.S.C. § 552. To date, every court that has reached this issue has concluded that the requested documents are agency records and must be processed in response to a properly submitted FOIA request. As no disputes of material fact exist as to the nature of the records, summary judgment as to this straightforward legal issue should be entered now.”
Noting court precedent, Judicial Watch argued in its motion that the visitor logs were “created by” the U.S. Secret Service and that they remain “under agency control.” Judicial Watch also noted that the U.S. Secret Service had released the visitor logs in response to previous FOIA requests from Judicial Watch and other parties, further demonstrating that these records are under the control of the U.S. Secret Service and subject to FOIA.
In 2009, the Obama White House began to release, in order to settle related litigation, a select number of Secret Service visitor logs to the public. However, tens of thousands of other records continue to be withheld in defiance of FOIA law. Only if visitor logs are released under the law (FOIA), can the American people be assured that the Obama White House is being forthright about who is visiting the White House.
On October 27, at the request of the White House, Judicial Watch staff visited with senior White House officials led by Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government, to discuss Judicial Watch’s pursuit of the visitor logs. During the meeting, White House officials offered to make some accommodations to Judicial Watch on the visitor logs and encouraged Judicial Watch to publicly praise the Obama administration’s commitment to transparency. However, the White House refused to abandon its legally indefensible contention that the visitor logs are not subject to FOIA law. In a November 30 letter, Norm Eisen reiterated the Obama administration’s position and requested that Judicial Watch “focus and narrow your request,” prompting Judicial Watch’s lawsuit.
“The Obama administration is trying to evade the Freedom of Information Act in order to protect its hidden Secret Service visitor logs,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Instead of wasting taxpayer resources stonewalling the release of these documents, the Obama administration should respect the rule of law, as well as court precedent, and release all logs of White House visitors immediately. These hidden visitor logs again show the ‘Big Lie’ of Obama’s supposed commitment to transparency.