Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama Cops Bush Attitude Toward House Guests

MSNBC personalities Chris Matthews, Keith Obermann and Rachel Maddow have taken their share of criticism for allegedly being front-row cheerleaders for President Barack Obama. They may want to move a few rows back based on the Obama Administration's refusal to turn over records requested by MSNBC containing the names of all visitors to the White House since January, thereby continuing the policy pursued by the Bush Administration.

The Secret Service declined to produce the visitors roster requested by MSNBC. The Obama Administration presently is arguing that the lists of visitors are not agency records of the Dept. of Homeland Security, under whose aegis the Secret Service operates, that would be subject to production under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [5 U.S.C. sec. 552], but rather, are FOIA-exempt documents pursuant to the Presidential Records Act [44 U.S.C. sec. 2203].

The Obama Administration has professed to favoring a new era of "transparency" in the conduct of government, but has followed the path of its predecessor on issues such as releasing photos related to Guanatanamo Bay detainees. At Tuesday's White House press briefing, spokesperson Robert Gibbs said the Administration is reviewing its position concerning the visitors list.

Meanwhile,Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ("CREW") today filed a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. CREW is seeking the release of any visitors list as to a select group of coal industry executives who have visited the Obama White House. Watchdog groups, such as CREW, frequently make such requests, arguing that such lists reveal whether any individuals or group are exerting excessive influence regarding governmental policy decisions.

In 2007 and again in January 2009, Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled in CREW's favor on its requests for visitor logs from the Bush White House in search of leaders of the religious right, holding that the requested documents were covered under the FOIA. The Obama Administration is pressing the Bush Administration's appeal of Judge Lamberth's ruling.

Visitor records concerning the White House are maintained in two databases: "WAVES"(Worker & Visitor Entry System) and "ACES"(Access Control Records System).

1 comment:

  1. WAVES, ACES, CREW? Too wholesome. Whatever happened to acronyms like SNAFU, TARFU and FUBAR?