NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · WASHINGTON, D.C. · Freedom of Information · Nov. 3, 2006
Court halts release of Cheney visitor logs
Nov. 3, 2006 · A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has suspended a ruling that ordered the Secret Service to release or offer justification for withholding information about two years of visitors to Vice President Dick Cheney.
The decision comes two weeks after U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ordered prompt disclosure of the logs of visitors to Cheney’s office and home, which The Washington Post requested through the Freedom of Information Act in June. Urbina also ordered the release of visitor logs for 12 of Cheney’s senior staff members.
Urbina gave the Secret Service until the end of last week to produce the logs or to provide a detailed document index and written justification if the agency continued to withhold the logs.
The appeals judges – Karen Henderson, David Sentelle, and David Tatel – said the government “satisfied the stringent standards required for a stay,” according to the order. They did not elaborate.
The newspaper asked the Secret Service to “expedite its processing” of the request based on an urgent need to inform the public about “the degree to which lobbyists and special interest representatives may have influenced policy decisions of the Bush administration and the ongoing CIA-leak case investigation” prior to the midterm elections.
“We based our request in part on the fact that the public has an interest in having information on who was visiting the vice president and senior staff before the election,” said Eric Lieberman, an attorney for the Post.
The appeals court’s decision means the Post’s request will not be processed until the appeals court makes its ruling, which will be sometime after the election.
FOIA requires expedited processing in certain circumstances, including when the information concerns the government’s integrity and therefore affects public confidence.
Department of Justice attorneys defending the Secret Service argued that the logs were in the exclusive custody and control of the Office of the Vice President. As a result, they said the electronic and handwritten notations of all entries and exits of visitors are not subject to FOIA.
Lieberman said the Post intends to continue the case after the elections.
(The Washington Post v. Department of Homeland Security, Media Counsel: David Sobel, Washington, D.C.) — KO