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A federal judge has taken a significant step in dismantling the wall of secrecy the Bush administration has needlessly built around the White House.
Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that White House visitors logs were public records and that the public had a right to see them.
The logs, maintained by the Secret Service, had been public until 2006, when the Bush administration, which adheres to the principle that its business is nobody’s but its own, declared that the logs were presidential records and thus exempt from the Freedom of Information Act under the doctrine of executive privilege.
Executive privilege is intended to protect the confidentiality and candor of the advice the president receives. The logs say only who visited the White House, when and for how long; they contain nothing about the substance of the visits.
Wrote Lamberth: “Knowledge of these visitors would not disclose presidential communications or shine a light on the president’s or vice president’s policy demonstrations.”
It might shed light, however, on White House political machinations.
An advocacy group is seeking details on White House visits by nine conservative Christian leaders. Two separate lawsuits seeking information on the White House visits of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff will be consolidated in Lamberth’s courtroom.
The White House says it will appeal, using that as an excuse not to comment on the legal setback. One day, it is to be hoped, Congress and the courts will throw open the doors and windows of the Bush administration and the sun will shine in. Unfortunately, it is likely to be long after it has left office.