First we had the White House declaring that its visitor logs were classified. Now, in yet another example of the “none of your damn business” school of government, it turns out the vice president has done the same.
A lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney told the Secret Service in September to eliminate data on who visited Cheney at his official residence, a newly disclosed letter states. The Sept. 13, 2006, letter from Cheney’s lawyer says logs for Cheney’s residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory are subject to the Presidential Records Act.
Such a designation prevents the public from learning who visited the vice president.
Note that there is no high-minded principle involved here. The White House classified its logs to keep people from finding out how many times Jack Abramoff had visited. Cheney classified his logs to keep people from finding out how often he was visiting with leaders of the religious right.
The records are preserved and go into the presidential records of the Bush administration. But other Bush orders (facilitated by none other than Alberto Gonzales) give administrations the right to keep documents out of public view forever.
It’s time for Congress to address such government records clearly and directly, spelling out that they are public documents that can only be withheld for certain narrow reasons — and avoiding embarassment or the judgement of history are not among them.