Court Slaps Down Obama Administration Secrecy, Rules White House Visitor Logs Subject to Open Records FOIA
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that a federal court ruled today against the Obama administration that Secret Service White House visitor logs are agency records that are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The decision was issued by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee, in Judicial Watch v. Secret Service (No. 09-2312).
In its lawsuit against the U.S. Secret Service, Judicial Watch asked 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 attempted to advance the 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 onDecember 7, 2009, this claim “has been litigated and rejected repeatedly.” Despite White House misinformation to the contrary, tens of thousands of visitor logs are being withheld from disclosure by the Obama administration. These records are now subject to disclosure under FOIA.
Judge Howell ruled that “the proper course of action by the Secret Service is duly to process [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request, disclose all segregable, nonexempt records, and then assert specific FOIA exemptions for all records it seeks to withhold.” Currently, the White House releases visitor information at its own discretion, the timing and specifics of which, it insisted, was not subject to court review.
“This is a major victory for open government and an embarrassing defeat for the Obama administration,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This administration will now have to release all records of all visitors to the White House – or explain why White House visits should be kept secret under law. It is refreshing to see the court remind this administration that the rule of law applies to it.”