The US watchdog group Judicial Watch had asked for Secret Service records in order to access White House visitor information for President Obama’s first seven months in office.
White House visitor logs for the president and most of his staff members are not subject to public information requests via the Freedom of Information Act, a federal appeals court ruled unanimously Friday.
Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, said in the ruling opinion that conflating Secret Service “agency records” to extend to White House visitor logs could hamper the executive’s ability to meet confidentially with visitors.
“Congress made clear that it did not want documents like the appointment calendars of the president and his close advisers to be subject to disclosure” under the Freedom of Information Act, wrote Garland.
Current rules allow for White House visitor records to stay confidential up to 12 years after a president has left office.
In May 2006, the Bush White House and the Secret Service asserted visitor logs are presidential records that can be shielded, unlike Secret Service agency records that are subject to FOIA requests unless one of nine exemptions applies.
Judicial Watch, a conservative group, said it was considering an appeal of the ruling.
“Decisions like this turn the Freedom of Information Act from a transparency law to a secrecy law,” the group’s president, Tom Fitton, told AP.