The Trump administration has said it will not follow former US president Barack Obama's policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of visitors to the White House complex, citing "grave national security risks and privacy concerns." The announcement marks a significant shift from the Obama administration which released the names of nearly 6 million visitors, including scores of lobbyists. The Trump administration said it would release information under far more limited circumstances: when Freedom of Information Act requests are filed for those visiting offices of the White House characterised under the law as separate agencies, such as the Office of Management and Budget. "Given the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, the White House Office will disclose Secret Service logs as outlined under the Freedom of Information Act, a position the Obama White House successfully defended in federal court," the Washington Post' reported, quoting White House communications director Mike Dubke's statement. The yesterday's announcement has drawn scathing criticism from government watchdog groups. "This new secrecy policy undermines the rule of law and suggests this White House doesn't want to be accountable to the American people," said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. "The only excuse for this policy is that the Trump administration has something to hide.
This kind of secrecy will allow big donors, lobbyists and special interests to have unknown levels of influence in the White House," said David Donnelly, president and chief executive of Every Voice. "It's the exact opposite of 'draining the swamp," Donnelly said, referring to Trump's pledge to usher in a more ethical and less corrupt era in Washington. The new policy effectively means that no information of the White House visitors will be available for at least five years. Under the Presidential Records Act, the public can gain access to records starting five years after the end of an administration, although the president may seek to keep them secret for up to 12 years, according to a media report.
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