Major Media Outlets, Open Government Organizations File Amicus Curiae Briefs in Support of Judicial Watch’s Lawsuit to Obtain Obama White House Visitor Logs
MAY 24, 2012
Bloomberg, CBS, Dow Jones, National Public Radio and the Washington Post among Major Media that Urge Court to Reject Obama Administration Interpretation of FOIA Law
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that major mainstream media outlets and open government organizations have joined its legal campaign against the Obama Secret Service to force the release of White House visitor logs. On August 17, Obama-appointed federal Judge Beryl Howell ruled against the Obama administration that Secret Service White House visitor logs are agency records that are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Obama administration appealed that decision and the lawsuit is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Secret Service (No. 11-5282)).
Among the organizations joining amicus briefs filed in Judicial Watch’s litigation are: Bloomberg, L.P.; CBS Broadcast Inc.; Dow Jones & Company Inc.; Gannett, Co. Inc.; The McClatchy Company; The National Association of Broadcasters; National Freedom of Information Coalition; National Public Radio; The Newspaper Guild; The Radio Television Digital News Association; The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; The Washington Post; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); Openthegovernment.org; Electronic Frontier Foundation; and the Project on Government Oversight.
According to the May 8, 2012, amicus curiae brief filed by Bloomberg, et al., the Obama administration is attempting to “evade the congressional mandate of FOIA”:
The Media Amici are particularly concerned that reversal of the decision below may encourage federal agencies to seek to place millions of documents outside of FOIA’s ambit based on no more than their say-so, even in the face of express statutes and judicial orders directly to the contrary. Permitting such an end-run around FOIA would significantly reduce the quantity and quality of information available to the media and, consequently, to the public at large, severely undermining the goal of an informed public that sits at the core of our democracy…
…Media Amici respectfully urge this Court to affirm the District Court’s ruling…and reject the Secret Service’s repeated efforts to evade the congressional mandate of FOIA. Any other decision risks inviting a degradation of the rights of the media and the public to access government information, ultimately reducing confidence in governmental institutions.
The Media Amici group also asserts that the Obama administration’s position “would effect a complete end-run around FOIA.”
According to the May 8, 2012, amicus curiae brief filed by CREW, et. al., the Obama administration’s position on the White House visitor logs is “radical” and will render FOIA a “dead letter.”
Pursuant to a lawsuit filed on December 7, 2009, Judicial Watch has asked the court to order the release of Secret Service logs of White House visitors from January 20, 2009, to August, 10, 2009.
The Obama administration has made the erroneous claim that the visitor logs “are not agency records subject to the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act].” As Judicial Watch noted in its complaint filed on December 7, 2009, this claim “has been litigated and rejected repeatedly.” Despite White House misinformation to the contrary, tens of thousands of visitor logs are being withheld from disclosure by the Obama administration.
According to Judge Howell’s ruling, the records should now be subject to disclosure under FOIA: “…the proper course of action by the Secret Service is duly to process [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request, disclose all segregable, nonexempt records, and then assert specific FOIA exemptions for all records it seeks to withhold.” Currently, the White House releases visitor information at its own discretion, the timing and specifics of which, it insisted, was not subject to court review.
“We are grateful that so many reputable media institutions and open government organizations are joining our legal campaign against the Obama administration to uphold our nation’s FOIA transparency law and force the release of White House visitor logs,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama administration has a sham policy of voluntarily releasing select White House visitor logs, while shielding hundreds of thousands visitor logs from public view. President Obama has made a mockery of his transparency promises to the American people.”