- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2009

The Obama administration, responding to lawsuits and complaints from private government watchdog groups, announced Friday that it will release the names of almost all public visitors to the White House.

The announcement, which reverses a privacy policy that has been in place through numerous administrations was immediately hailed by private groups who said it would fulfill a campaign promise by President Obama to shed more light on the policy-making process.

Under the deal, which resulted from negotiations between the administration and the advocacy group Citizens for Reform and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the new policy will go into effect on Sept. 15 and only apply to visitors from that time forward. Records detailing visitors on an “appointment, tour or to conduct business,” from the previous 90 to 120 days will be posted online each month, the White House said.

Mr. Obama said in a statement that his administration is “shining a light on the business conducted inside” the White House, with the exception of confidential meetings such as a potential Supreme Court nominee or due to national security.

Past administrations fought the disclosure of visitors under the Presidential Records Act, arguing the records were not subject to open government laws.

CREW billed it as an “historic agreement” and a commitment to transparency.

The decision settles four ongoing lawsuits about access to White House records, CREW said.

CREW sued for specific records related to White House visits by health care and coal executives.

“The government initially refused to turn over these records, but now has agreed to produce them, as well as the Bush era records, as part of the settlement,” CREW said in a statement.

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