When Barack Obama came to office he promised that he would have the most ethical, most transparent presidency in American history. This month the Obama administration won a court judgment to allow Obama to keep the White House visitor log a secret from the American people.
On August 30, a federal appeals court decided that the White House visitor logs are not “public information” and therefore not subject to the disclosure requirements required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The vote was not close, either. It was a 3-0 decision allowing Obama to keep visitor log sheets secret for up to 12 years after he has left office–as is the case with many presidential records.
Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a native Chicagoan and 1997 Bill Clinton appointee who became chief judge on Obama’s watch, insisted that he took his cue from Congress itself.
In his decision, Garland said that with FOIA, “Congress made clear that it did not want documents like the appointment calendars of the president and his close advisors to be subject to disclosure.”
This is a blow to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch that has been pursuing the release of the visitor logs.
Upon release of the decision, Judicial Watch President, Tom Fitton, said, “Decisions like this turn the Freedom of Information Act from a transparency law to a secrecy law.”
Garland maintained that opening the logs to immediate public scrutiny would represent a “serious intrusion” into the president’s daily operations.
Garland’s opinion on the logs coincides with that of the George W. Bush administration, as well.
In 2008 when Obama first came to office, administration flack John Podesta said that Obama would implement the “strictest ethics rules ever applied” to the White House.
But almost immediately upon taking office Obama began to break his own rules. Only weeks passed, for instance, before he broke his “rules” on hiring lobbyists, a proscription against which was one of his most insistent campaign claims.