The White House may have lost a battle, but they have not lost the war.
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For nearly two years, D.C. watchdogs Judicial Watch and Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington have been battling in court for Secret Service records of visits to the Bush White House and the Vice President's Office. The first request was for Jack Abramoff's visits, but they also set out to discover how often his associates and various conservative religious leaders had visited. Did they know what they were in for?
Over time, the White House has tried various legal theories to block the release. There was the imposing "mosaic theory," whereby seemingly innocuous information, such as visits to the White House, could prove a national security threat when combined with other seemingly innocuous information. And there was the Vice President's secret agreement with the Secret Service that even though the Secret Service makes and keeps the visitor records, they're not really Secret Service records (even though they'd been treated that way in the past), they're White House records, and thus not subject to FOIA. Oh, and there was the Vice President's order to destroy the records. And on and on.
Today, CREW had a good day in court, with a federal judge deciding that the secret agreement was bunk and that the Secret Service records really were public records. And there was also a partial victory. The judge denied CREW's motion to declare that the Secret Service could not destroy its White House visitor records once it had transferred copies to the White House; but because the judge said the records are public records, the White House now cannot destroy them without the say-so of the National Archives and Records Administration. And when you want to destroy documents, you really don't want any red tape, do you?