Obama to post White House visitor logs on the Internet
After early signs he might follow the lead of other presidents and keep his White House visitor logs secret, Barack Obama has decided instead he’s going to post them on the Internet.
This, of course, jeopardizes the popular Washington sport of going to court to find out who’s getting face time with the president.
It’s a hallowed tradition observed over many administrations.
President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney waged a valiant struggle to keep their logs secret from groups wanting to know such things as who was influencing energy policy or how much access corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff was given.
Visitor logs were used to track the comings and goings of White House intern Monica Lewinsky during Bill Clinton’s presidency. And they provided fodder for the Whitewater and influence peddling investigations involving Clinton.
Even Obama, who promised transparency during his election campaign, had been battling lawsuits over the visitor logs before announcing Friday he was giving up the fight.
“For the first time in history, records of White House visitors will be made available to the public on an ongoing basis,” Obama said in a statement.
“Americans have a right to know whose voices are being heard in the policymaking process,” he said.
Under the guidelines, records of visitors from the previous 90-120 days will be released online. Watchdog groups said they expected the first records dump in December.
Not everything will be posted. The White House said a “small group of appointments” related to national security will remain confidential. And confidential meetings with potential nominees may also be withheld.
Otherwise, “the record of every visitor who comes to the White House for an appointment, a tour, or to conduct business will be released,” the White House said.
Watchdog groups praised the move.
Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, whose group helped develop the policy, said the administration had “proven its pledge to usher in a new era of government transparency.”
CREW has often been involved in lawsuits over the visitor logs. Michael German of the American Civil Liberties Union, also praised the move, but urged the administration to be more specific about the exceptions to the disclosure rule.
“We encourage President Obama to define these exceptions narrowly and to keep secret visits in the White House to a minimum,” he said.
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Democratic Senators leave White House after meeting Obama in early August)