Saturday, January 06, 2007

White House Visitors List Skullduggery

The White House gets the Secret Service to play along with their shenanigans.

The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring that records identifying visitors to the White House are not open to the public.

Not until the fall did the Bush administration reveal the existence of the memorandum of understanding that was signed last spring. The White House is using it to deal with a legal problem on a separate front, a ruling by a federal judge ordering the production of Secret Service logs identifying visitors to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

In a federal appeals court filing three weeks ago, the administration's lawyers used the memo in a legal argument aimed at overturning the judge's ruling. The Washington Post is suing for access to the Secret Service logs.

The five-page document dated May 17 declares that all entry and exit data on White House visitors belongs to the White House as presidential records rather than to the Secret Service as agency records. Therefore, the agreement states, the material is not subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

In the past, Secret Service logs have revealed the comings and goings of various White House visitors, including Monica Lewinsky and Clinton campaign donor Denise Rich, the wife of fugitive financier Marc Rich, who received a pardon in the closing hours of the Clinton administration.

The memo last spring was signed by the White House and Secret Service the day after a Washington-based group asked a federal judge to impose sanctions on the Secret Service in a dispute over White House visitor logs for Abramoff.

The chief counsel to another Washington-based group suing to get Secret Service logs calls the memo "a political maneuver couched as a legal one."

"It appears the White House is actually manufacturing evidence to further its own agenda," Anne Weismann, a Justice Department lawyer for 19 years and now chief counsel to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Friday.

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