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Appeals court rules White House visitor logs can stay private

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2013

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Secret Service does not have to release visitor logs for President Obama and top White House advisers and that the Freedom of Information Act does not cover these documents.

Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that releasing the records to the public would basically moot — unfairly — congressional laws that exempted presidential records from FOIA, Politico reported.

"Where Congress has intentionally excluded a governmental entity from the Act, we have been unwilling to conclude that documents or information of that entity can be obtained indirectly, by filing a FOIA request with an entity that is covered under that statute," the judge wrote in the 46-page opinion, Politico reported. "At bottom, we do not believe Congress intended that FOIA requesters be able to obtain from the gatekeepers of the White House what they are unable to obtain from its occupants."

Mr. Obama agreed in 2009 to disclose information on White House visits, while maintaining that disclosure was voluntary.

Judicial Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog group, sued for information on nine months of visits that occurred before Mr. Obama's policy went into effect, and it won concessions from a district court in 2011. Then, judges said that the records fell under FOIA law but that certain exemptions applied.

The appeals ruling puts the case back in Judicial Watch's hands, which now could seek a full bench hearing before all six of the D.C. Circuit judges or take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

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