Court says White House can keep visitor information private

Court says White House can keep visitor information privateIn a blow to supporters for open transparency in government, the federal court for the District of Columbia has issued a ruling that President Obama and his successors in the Oval Office are under no obligation to publicly release the names of individuals visiting the White House.

The judge’s decision was in response to a case brought by Judicial Watch, a government watchdog nonprofit organization that has been fighting an ongoing lengthy legal battle in an attempt to force the White House to release visitor log information saying they are public records and thus subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

However, in a decision that has drawn intense criticism from both the left and right side of the political aisle, the circuit court ruled that the president has a “constitutional prerogative” as to whether or not he wants to tell the American people who he and his staff meets with in the White House.

The court ruled the reason the president has the prerogative is because he is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act and because of “special policy considerations” that exempts visitor logs from being classified as agency records subject to release under the law.

Obama, in an attempt to bolster his claim that his is “the most transparent administration in history” has selectively released portions of the logs.

Following the ruling, judicial watch President Tom Fitton said he was extremely disappointed in the decision and that Obama is “a president that doesn’t want Americans, under law, to know who his visitors are is a president who doesn’t want to be accountable. The appellate court decision punches another hole in the Freedom of Information Act, the law which allows Americans to know what their government is up to.”

Fitton said the organization is seriously considering filing appeal which could end up at the Supreme Court saying that the decision strikes at the very intent of the FOIA.

“The legal gymnastics in this unprecedented decision shows that President Obama is not only one willing rewrite laws without going through Congress. And this legal fight, in which President Obama is fighting tooth and nail full disclosure under law of his White House visitors, further exposes his big lie that his administration is the most transparent in history. The silver lining is that at least the appellate court opened up the records of tens of thousands of White House visits that Obama was trying to keep secret,” Fitton said.

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About the author

Kristin covers health, science and internet news.