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On White House visitor list, Obama’s 'transparency' is murky

Critics say the president is acting like Bush by preventing visitor logs from becoming public.

President Obama speaks to the press at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden in Washington Friday. His administration has blocked access to White House visitor logs.

Larry Downing/Reuters

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When Barack Obama took office, he promised the most transparent presidency in history. His White House web site still displays the memorandum, signed the day after inauguration, committing his administration “to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

But by now, it has become a cliché that when push comes to shove, the Obama White House behaves an awful lot like the Bush White House.

The latest flap is over visitor logs at the White House. The Obama administration is keeping secret, for now, the names of people who have visited the White House – though press secretary Robert Gibbs says that policy is under review.

The nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking release of visitor logs that would reveal visits by executives of coal companies. In a statement, CREW says it is trying to learn “the extent to which these individuals may have influenced the administration’s energy policy.”

MSNBC announced today that it had been turned down in a broader request for the names of all visitors to the White House since Jan. 20.

Specifically, CREW’s complaint was filed against the Department of Homeland Security, based on the Secret Service’s refusal to release the visitor records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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