Thursday, September 21, 2006

CREW Reveals What the White House Has Not Released about the Abramoff Secret Service Records

Many More Abramoff-Related Visits Took Place Than Have Been Disclosed

WASHINGTON - September 21 - It was reported yesterday that the White House had released White House visitor records of certain Republican operatives, including Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, to settle Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Democratic National Committee (DNC). It was actually the Secret Service, a component of DHS, and not the White House that released the records.

CREW sued the Secret Service on May 9, 2006 for its failure to respond to a CREW FOIA request for Worker And Visitor Entrance System (WAVE), Access Control Records (ACR) and other visitor records for a number of prominent conservative activists, including Jack Abramoff, to the White House, executive office buildings and the Vice President’s house. The DNC sued for a smaller scope of documents.

Once in litigation, the Secret Service took the remarkable position that all records were off-limits. When pressed in similar lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch, the Secret Service acknowledged that the agency had, in fact, destroyed records after making copies for the White House – a practice it discontinued only after the National Archives and Records Administration, the agency charged with ensuring that agencies properly preserve records, intervened in October 2004.

In settlement discussions with the Secret Service, CREW learned that the full body of visitor records shows that Norquist visited the White House far more than the 97 visits disclosed yesterday. The full complement of Secret Service records, including those the Secret Service destroyed (but which are still with the White House), shows that Norquist visited the White House a minimum of 155 times, Similarly, rather than the mere 18 meetings revealed yesterday, Reed visited the White House on at least 49 separate occasions.

The Secret Service is now arguing that the records are not the agency’s to provide. This flatly contradicts the position taken by the agency during the Clinton administration, when the Secret Service provided such records to Judicial Watch in litigation over Filegate. CREW will continue to litigate until the Secret Service explains what records have been destroyed as well as why and at whose direction they were destroyed.

CREW’s executive director Melanie Sloan stated, “Why is the White House stonewalling? What are they trying to hide? The American people deserve to know the truth about who has been peddling influence at the White House.”


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