Washington, April 15 (IANS) President Donald Trump’s administration announced that it will not follow predecessor Barack Obama’s policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of visitors to the White House complex, citing “grave national security risks and privacy concerns”.
Friday’s announcemen marks a significant shift from the Obama administration, which released the names of nearly 6 million visitors since 2009, including scores of lobbyists, The Washington Post reported.
Instead, the Trump administration said it would release information under far more limited circumstances: when Freedom of Information Act requests are filed for those visiting offices of the White House characterised under the law as separate agencies, such as the Office of Management and Budget.
Under the new policy, it will be up to the White House to decide whether to release the names of visitors coming to meet with the President, Vice President and their senior staff.
However, the announcement was harshly criticised by government watchdog groups.
“The only excuse for this policy is that the Trump administration has something to hide,” said David Donnelly, president and chief executive of advocacy group, Every Voice.
“This kind of secrecy will allow big donors, lobbyists and special interests to have unknown levels of influence in the White House,” The Washington Post quoted Donnelly as saying.
The Trump administration was sued in federal court earlier this week by a coalition of watchdog groups to compel the release of the White House visitor logs.
Under Obama, such records, which were published on a White House-maintained website, were typically disclosed 90 to 120 days after the visit.
Since Trump took office in January, the page where the visitor logs had been publicly available went dark.
Trump administration officials said that they will no longer maintain it, saving taxpayers $70,000 by 2020, the daily added.