Thursday, May 18, 2006

[political-researchp] Bloglines - Abramoff White House Logs Mystery Solved!

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Abramoff White House Logs Mystery Solved!

Aha! Consider this a lesson in the fine art of the FOIA request.

Last week, the Secret Service turned over its records of Jack Abramoff's White House visits to Judicial Watch. The records indicated a paltry two visits - an unbelievably low tally.

Everybody knew that Judicial Watch had gotten the shaft. It just wasn't clear how.

Well, here's how: the Secret Service doesn't have the records - the White House does. That's because the Secret Service transfers their more comprehensive visitor logs, called WAVES (Workers Appointments and Visitors Entry System) records, to the White House every 60 days. If Judicial Watch, or anyone else, wants to find out how often Jack Abramoff visited the White House, they'll have to FOIA (and then probably sue) the Executive Office of the President. All they'll get from the Secret Service are Access Control Records, which, as we found out last Wednesday, don't tell you very much.

This comes from court documents filed by the Secret Service yesterday. Angry at what little they received from the Secret Service, Judicial Watch has renewed their suit against the agency, but the Secret Service is arguing that they have nothing more to give. To explain why, the Secret Service agent in charge of FOIA requests explained how their record keeping works:

the longstanding practice of the Secret Service to transfer WAVES records on CD-ROM to the White House every 30 to 60 days.... [O]nce the Secret Service transferred the WAVES records, the Secret Service ensured those records were erased from its computer system.

It has been


In October 2004, at the request of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Secret Service began temporarily retaining its own copy of the WAVES records that it transferred to the White House. As such, the Secret Service has in its possession WAVES records dating back only to October 2004.

So the Secret Service only has WAVES dating back to October 2004. That's long after Abramoff would have have been welcome at the White House - The Washington Post kicked off the Abramoff scandal in February of that year. And that's why the search turned up nothing from the WAVES.

There are a couple of ongoing lawsuits against the Secret Service for records of Abramoff's and his associates' White House visits. But they're suing the wrong outfit. And it's obvious that they're not going to get any help from the White House or Secret Service in how they should go about obtaining these public records.

There's a question as to whether the White House would claim executive privilege over the records, but the effort to obtain Jeff Gannon/James Guckert's White House visit logs last year was ultimately successful, so a suit should work here too.

And when they finally do get around to suing the Executive Office of the President - the James Guckert/Jeff Gannon request indicated that the EOP was the White House office that keeps the WAVES records -, it should be worth their while. According to the NY Times, the WAVES records will tell you a lot more about Abramoff's comings and goings:

Two other administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of rules that generally bar them from speaking to reporters, said ... the more complete logs, known within the White House as Waves records, an acronym for the Workers Appointments and Visitors Entry System, would have identified the other visits by Mr. Abramoff.

So who's it going to be? Judicial Watch? CREW? The Democratic National Committee? Time to get suing again. Or else we'll never find out.



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