Owatonna, MN Correspondent-All administrations should be required to release records of White House visitors. This country believes itself to be an open and free society, yet our leaders increasingly act as if the less the public knows about the inner workings of its government, the better for all. Sort of a “Don’t worry your pretty little head over all these details” mentality.
The rationale for withholding information such as this is twofold—to not infringe on the privacy of those who visit the White House, and for reasons of national security. The privacy issue is specious at best because the White House is a public building (except for the President’s private quarters) and should not be so carefully guarded that observers can’t reasonably see who may be coming or going.
The real issue always seems to be the national security mantra. Since September 11, 2001, terrorism has put national security at the heart of nearly every political issue. The cost, in this case, is the right to know what our government is doing on our behalf. But other than friends and family who visit for social reasons alone, any visitors should be presumed to be there for business reasons.
Business by definition involves money. Political business even more so because taxpayer money is inseparable from political decisions. To equate knowing who is asking for money or favors from the government with a national security risk is absurd. National security should only mean not putting American lives at risk by divulging information about identities or locations of those lives, such as troop positions or names and addresses of CIA operatives in the field.
The Trump administration says they only want to return to the pre-Obama standard of releasing most visitor logs after five years. But five years is a long time to wait to discover that some CEO or lobbyist visited the White House and made a deal with the administration to win government contracts, special favors, or cover up some problem. By then, irreparable damage to individuals, companies, or even other countries may have been done.
The watchdog groups who are challenging the administration on this issue should be joined by the American people and insist that the federal government become more open and accessible.
Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-The Trump administration has based its decision to not release records on White House visitors due to national security and privacy concerns, and under the new policy those entering the White House to meet with the president or his aides will not be made public until five years after Trump has left the presidency.
Many on the right and left have denounced this decision saying that it casts a veil of secrecy about the visitors coming and going from the White House and that the American people have the right to know what is going on in the White House, which makes others think that Trump doesn’t want to be accountable to the public, or he has something to hide.
This new policy has obviously been challenged but there is a method in Trump’s madness that suggests a new outlook on keeping private information and national security issues under wraps. With the scrutiny by the left and conservative groups, and the fake news outlets that watch every move of the president and his staff, there is sound reason behind wanting to restrict records of those who come and go from the White House.
With the new restrictions on lobbying and the effort to elevate ethics within various White House offices, and the expansion and opening of the White House press room to the media, the Trump administration has done everything possible to establish openness and accessibility to ensure that the American people would be apprised of what is happening in the government.
The Obama administration was not known for its transparency with White House visitor logs and a number of groups tried to sue for release of them, with the same attempts being made during the Bush administration. A settlement in Obama’s case was reached in 2009 and a search engine was created to track lobbying inside the White House.
The issue of White House visitations has been a topic of interest for a number of administrations, though it seems that the Obama administration was able to do pretty much whatever it wanted to concerning visitors and lobbying efforts, but now that a new president has entered the White House, all of a sudden visitations have become a top priority, particularly with information hungry members of the press and others bent on starting rumors and making false reports simply to bring trouble and outlandish accusations to the administration.
The new policy is being challenged now by the National Security Archive and other open government groups and a lawsuit has been filed in a New York federal court to seek the records of White House visits and visits to Trump’s residences in Florida and New York. The National Security Archive argues in the suit that any visitation records belong to the Secret Service, which makes them open to disclosure.
Whether or not the suit will go forward, be resolved and another website established to keep track of White House visitors remains to be seen, but the challenge has been made and now the Trump administration may be faced with the dilemma of publicly exposing visitor logs. With the apparent surveillance that has occurred before Trump’s entrance into the White House and the damaging effects that were perpetrated in the early days of the administration, there really is reason to keep the visitor logs private for the safety and security of the nation, in spite of the challenges made