Here’s a little trip down memory lane from the “Freedom of Information Act” entry in Wikipedia. Watch the scenery very carefully and see if anything looks familiar.
Following the Watergate scandal, President Gerald R. Ford wanted to sign Freedom of Information Act-strengthening amendments in the Privacy Act of 1974, but concern about leaks (by his chief of staff Donald Rumsfeld and deputy Richard Cheney) and legal arguments that the bill was unconstitutional (by government lawyer Antonin Scalia, among others) persuaded Ford to veto the bill, according to declassified documents in 2004. However, Congress voted to override Ford’s veto, giving the United States the core Freedom of Information Act still in effect today, with judicial review of executive secrecy claims.
With the scene now set, we can turn to the ruling from D.C. District Court today which rebuffed another scheme to keep people from finding out about the inner workings of this administration. Or, as some might say, to hide potential. evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors.
White House visitor logs are public documents, a federal judge ruled Monday, rejecting a legal strategy that the Bush administration had hoped would get around public records laws and let them keep their guests a secret.
The ruling is a blow to the Bush administration, which has fought the release of records showing visits by prominent religious conservatives.
Visitor records are created by the Secret Service, which is subject to the Freedom of Information Act. But the Bush administration has ordered the data turned over to the White House, where they are treated as presidential records outside the scope of the public records.
But U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled logs from the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney’s residence remain Secret Service documents and are subject to public records requests.
In a lawsuit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group, Lamberth ordered the Secret Service to turn over visitor logs regarding nine conservative religious commentators, including James Dobson, Gary Bauer and Jerry Falwell.
“I think it’s hugely significant,” said Anne L. Weismann, the watchdog group’s chief counsel. “The judge saw their arguments for what they were.”
In a separate case, CREW had sought an order declaring illegal a Bush administration policy under which the Secret Service destroys its copies of the logs once they are turned over to the White House.
In that second case involving White House visits by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Lamberth said he did not have the authority to issue such a ruling.
Because the logs were declared Secret Service records, however, they cannot be destroyed without approval from the National Archives.
The Bush administration had sought to have the case moved to another judge by consolidating it with a similar lawsuit before U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, an appointee of President Bush.
Lamberth, who served in the Justice Department before President Reagan put him on the federal bench, has roiled Democratic and Republican administrations alike with rulings rejecting government secrecy claims.
Don’t you just hate it when the system works correctly so that a court case gets sent to a judge that was not hand picked by BUSHCO, and when said judge upholds a law stating that the people have a right to know what goes on in the government that we own.
Oh, that’s right, we love it and it’s the Bush Administration that hates it.