White House Ushers in Transparency: Opens Up Guest Logs

September 4, 2009

(ChattahBox)—President Obama is poised to usher in a new era of transparency, by making public, White House guest logs that include the thousands of people visiting the White House on a monthly basis. Previous presidents, especially the Bush and Cheney administration, sought to keep visitor logs secret, citing national security concerns.

The President plans to announce the guest log changes today, which would take effect starting on Sept. 15. The new policy comes in the wake of a long legal battle by watchdog groups, like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which sued for the visitor log information during the Bush administration.

The Obama administration first adhered to a long-standing White House policy of keeping the visitor logs secret. In pending CREW lawsuits, a federal district court judge ruled that the visitor records should be released under the Freedom of Information Act, but the Obama administration appealed the ruling, while the administration developed a new policy.

The new policy would open Secret Service electronic visitor logs three to four months after visits are made. The disclosed records, include the identity of the person initiating the meeting, where it was held and for how long.

Exceptions would be made in cases of national security, extreme confidentiality and personal visits to Michelle Obama, including daughters Malia and Sasha.

“We will achieve our goal of making this administration the most open and transparent administration in history. Americans have a right to know whose voices are being heard,” said Obama in his prepared statement.

The watchdog group, CREW is pleased with the new policy. Executive director Melanie Sloan believes opening up White House visitor logs are important to shed light on who may have a hand in influencing administration policy. “It can be a big deal to know who’s there,” said Sloan.

About 70,000 to 100,000 people visit the White House each month and soon, the vast majority of the visitor log information would be made public.

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