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US Leahy Questions Secret Service On White House Visitor Logs January 11, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked the Secret Service on Wednesday why the agency signed an agreement with the Bush administration to keep White House visitors logs secret.

In a letter to Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, Leahy said he was disappointed to hear about the agreement and sought an explanation “for this change in policy.”

Signed last May 17 in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, the memorandum of understanding says the logs are “at all times presidential records; are not federal records; and are not the records of an agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act.”

Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, noted that White House visitor logs have been reviewed in the past and have played prominent roles in investigations of prior administrations.

“I have always respected the work of the Secret Service and viewed it as a nonpartisan law enforcement agency,” the Vermont Democrat wrote.

Leahy’s letter came the same day a private group sued the National Archives, seeking information about the Secret Service’s suspension of its destruction of White House visitor records.

In October 2004, at the request of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Secret Service halted what it said had been a practice of routinely deleting visitor log data from its computer system after periodically turning the information over to the Bush White House.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is suing over the National Archives’ refusal to disclose why it asked the Secret Service to start retaining its own copies of the White House visitor records. If the National Archives views the logs as federal records as opposed to presidential records, that could bolster the efforts of CREW and other private organizations suing to obtain White House visitor logs.

The organizations are seeking an array of information about Abramoff-related White House visits and who visited the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. The efforts by the groups to obtain the logs began during the Abramoff scandal.

The National Archives declined comment on the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

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