Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the release of emails between the White House and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regarding White House visitor logs have now been met – with almost completely blacked out pages. It seems NARA, the agency charged with maintaining such records, is doing its best “Al Jolson” impression.
You've got to imagine NARA is just laughing about this now, saying, "Wait'll those suckers see this. Happy reading, folks!"
This release came about as the result of an earlier FOIA request for the release of logs detailing White House visitors, which remain undisclosed and in dispute.
Are lists of people visiting the White House something that could be used to compromise national security, and therefore require classification? Is the secrecy of communications regarding those lists of vital national importance, necessitating their release in heavily redacted form?
The only conceivable harm visitor lists (and related communications) could present would be to a person who had invited in, say, questionable guests. Since it’s the president’s house, he’s ultimately responsible for them, no? Bush could certainly be embarrassed or worse by the revelation of visits from such GOP-tainting figures as Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley and others.
This situation is reminiscent of one involving Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force meeting. The meeting, which occurred shortly after he took office, reportedly consisted of corporate energy interests (including Enron) giving their wish lists to the second in command. We don’t know exactly because, even after a FOIA request and a Supreme Court ruling against him, Cheney has refused to disclose complete details of the meeting.
We do know that no one who didn’t have a financial interest in the energy industry was invited to attend, i.e. no environmental protection or consumer protection groups or anyone else who was likely to make a fuss.
It seems to me that FOIA is a worthless piece of legislation if it doesn’t result in the release of some actual information. We classify material to protect our country from harm, not to protect individual officials from embarrassment stemming from their own questionable activities. This is an abuse of executive privilege and as such should be addressed by Congress when January rolls around.
And, while they're at it, recess appointments. And signing statements. And extraordinary rendition. Basically, all of this administration’s counter-democratic policies of secrecy, subversion and deceit. Which covers most of them, I believe.