"If this is transparency, then who needs it?"
A foot of snow couldn’t keep Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Jennifer Hudson and other celebrities away from a star-studded celebration of civil-rights-era music, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House in February 2010.
Dylan’s haunting rendition of “The Times They Are a-Changin’” was a highlight of the dazzling evening. The digitally friendly White House even posted the video of his performance on its website.Continue Reading
But you won’t find Dylan (or Robert Zimmerman, his birth name) listed in the White House visitor logs — the official record of who comes to call at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., which is maintained by the Secret Service.
Ditto Joan Baez.
Similarly, the logs are missing the names of thousands of other visitors to the White House, including lobbyists, government employees, campaign donors, policy experts and friends of the first family, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.
The White House website proudly boasts of making available “over 1,000,000 records of everyone who’s come through the doors of the White House” via a searchable database.
Yet the Center’s analysis shows that the logs routinely omit or cloud key details about the identity of visitors, whom they met with and the nature of their visits. The logs even include the names of people who never showed up. These are critical gaps that raise doubts about the records’ historical accuracy and utility in helping the public understand White House operations, from social events to meetings on key policy debates.
Among the many weaknesses found by the Center’s review of the database:
• The “event” description in the logs is blank for more than 205,000 visits, including many that involved small meetings with the president and his key aides.
• Five junior staff aides together received more than 4,440 visits. By contrast, then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, famed for his workaholic schedule, is listed as having fewer than 500 visits.
• Less than 1 percent of the estimated 500,000 visits to the White House in Obama’s first eight months — a time when the new administration was bustling with activity — have been disclosed, according to the Center’s analysis.
• The logs include names of people cleared by the Secret Service for White House entry who apparently never showed up. The Center analysis found more than 200,000 visits with no time of arrival, an indication that the person didn’t enter the White House, though there is no way to be certain. For instance, actor Ryan Gosling is listed at a West Wing event with members of his band, Dead Man’s Bones, in October 2009. But Gosling’s representative, Carolyn Govers, said the actor did not go.
• Two-thirds of the more than 1 million names listed are people who passed through parts of the White House on guided group tours.
The Center’s analysis is based on visitor logs through February; additional names released in late March are not included in this analysis. “If this is transparency, who needs it?” said Steven Aftergood, director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. He called the White House visitor logs “very thin gruel.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53072.html#ixzz1JPoj3Wt8