White House Pushes To Keep Visitor Logs Private President Obama campaigned on a promise to bring a new era of openness and transparency to the White House. But less than six months into his presidency, there are already battles over what information should be made public — including a fight over the Secret Service logs of visitors to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
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White House Pushes To Keep Visitor Logs Private

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White House Pushes To Keep Visitor Logs Private

White House Pushes To Keep Visitor Logs Private

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DAVID GREENE, Host:

NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

GONYEA: It was a recurring theme of the Obama campaign last year, a call for openness.

BARACK OBAMA: Transparency and accountability getting the American people involved, that's how we're going to bring about change.

GONYEA: And it continued on Mr. Obama's first full day as president.

OBAMA: Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side - not of those who seek to withhold information - but those who seek to make it known.

GONYEA: But for advocates of open government, this new era of openness has yet to dawn.

MELANIE SLOAN: Once all the pretty speeches were over in the first couple of days, the record now isn't quite so great.

GONYEA: It's similar to a lawsuit the Bush administration fought off unsuccessfully a few years back. This year, CREW asked for the records again, citing the Freedom of Information Act.

SLOAN: Not only did the administration refuse to provide those records, we have sued them, and they have said that they are making the same arguments that the Bush administration did, that these are presidential records, even though that argument has already lost in court.

GONYEA: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was recently asked about the White House visitor logs during his daily briefing.

ROBERT GIBBS: I think there are obviously occasions in which the president is going to meet privately with advisors on topics that are of great national importance, yes.

GONYEA: Former Bush administration press secretary, Ari Fleischer, has been watching this debate closely, and with some sense of vindication.

ARI FLEISCHER: As a candidate you can make the easy call and say I'll do it. As a president, it's a good thing, I think, that he's thinking twice on some of these things.

GONYEA: For these things, Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, another open government advocacy group, says the Obama administration deserves real credit.

ELLEN MILLER: I think what the administration is beginning to deliver is an openness when it comes to a certain level of White House deliberations and with respect to government data. Time, of course, will tell how this all plays out. But even in the first six months of the administration, we're seeing far more openness than we've seen in modern history.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House.

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