President needs to follow through on transparency issue

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 30, 2009

President Barack Obama, who made a pledge to bring greater transparency to government during his administration, needs to implement that philosophy at the door to his new home.

In a disturbing echo of his predecessor’s approach to public records, the Obama administration recently rejected two requests for access to White House visitor logs maintained by the Secret Service.

MSNBC had asked for a list of all visitors since Jan. 20, and the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had requested logs of visits by coal company executives. In response to the rejection, CREW has filed a lawsuit in federal court.

Administration officials say they’re reviewing the policy on visitor logs but, for now, they’re adhering to the Bush-era stance that the official record of visitors is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

There’s no need to review the policy. A federal judge has twice rejected claims by the Bush administration, laid out in a 2006 memo to the Secret Service, that the visitor logs are off-limits to public view. …

Transparency, as Obama has said many times, enhances public understanding of government actions and serves as a safeguard against corruption. The concept applies to the White House. It is the people’s house, and the people have a right to know who’s inside.

— The Virginian-Pilot,

Norfolk, Va.