Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Anonymizing Visitors

The Washington Post reported on January 5, 2007, that the White House and the US Secret Service signed a memorandum of understanding declaring that records of White House visitors are not Secret Service records. They are Presidential records.

Should we care? You bet we should. As Presidential records they are exempt from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The memorandum of understanding between the White House (meaning: people in the Executive Office of the President of the United States, not the building) and the US Secret Service (meaning: its Director) will make it much more difficult for the public (meaning: The Washington Post) to learn how frequently and when visitors like Jack Abramoff, Monica Lewinsky, Denise Rich, and Ralph Reed dropped by for . . .

Congress should "invite" Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to present himself and explain his agency's legal authority to enter into an agreement to circumvent FOIA. He should also be required to prove conclusively that the agreement was somehow essential for the Secret Service to fulfill its statutory obligations.

That's what Congress should do. It may not, however. The Democrat leadership in Congress undoubtedly remembers the visitor logs were used to substantiate President Clinton's adultery with Monica Lewinsky. Hoping someday to regain the White House, the Democrat leaders may see some advantage in blustering over this agreement but not seriously challenging it. Anonymizing visitors has utility if you're in control of the Oval Office.

The public, however, will lose. The Bush administration has successfully used the authorization for the use of military force in Iraq to justify decreasing the public's access to information we need to make informed decisions as citizens. If this agreement is allowed to stand, it will form the basis for more withholdings by this and future administrations regardless of political party affiliation.


Blogger Dogwalkmusings said...

This administration has set it's own rules so many times, signing statements, the public has no idea what a law is all about. There is what was sent to the President and what he feels he can ignore. Now he can open first class mail with impunity. And now anonymize visitors ? Business as usual.

Never thought the history I would witness would be the intentional destruction of our government and our rights by our leaders.

6:51 PM, January 06, 2007  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


I completely agree. Signing statements are scary mainly because no one has yet tested them to see if they have the force of law. Common sense says they shouldn't, because Congress makes and passes laws for the President to sign or veto. He can influence the legislation's content while it's in the legislature, but my opinion is that his only choices are to sign or veto once Congress has approved it.

As to his strange signing statement about opening first class mail: It takes a few hours at most to get an order to open US mail. If the circumstances are truly exigent, wake a judge up, have him read the affidavit and rule on it in his jammies, and go from there. Is something sent through snail mail really exigent, though?

Some people say that if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear by having others read our mail, listen to our phone calls, and examine our DNA samples. Those people usually change their attitude if and when they're wrongfully arrested, maybe tried, and maybe convicted and imprisoned.

Reasonable fear and skepticism is not paranoia.

7:33 PM, January 06, 2007  

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