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Trump administration says it won’t release White House visitor records

White House stock obama - from White House flickr

The Trump administration has said it will not be releasing White House visitor records, and the site the Obama administration created to host them, Open.gov, has been officially discontinued. According to Time, White House officials say that the choice stemmed from “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.” Now, visitor logs will be kept secret until five years after Trump has left office.

Obama started releasing visitor records in 2009, in response to transparency lawsuits. His administration had released around 6 million by the end of 2016, publishing with a three-month delay. But the Trump officials told Time that Obama’s ability to redact records created “more of a facade of transparency rather than complete transparency.” Similar criticism was levied by transparency watchdogs during Obama’s presidency. Nonetheless, visitor logs could be used in investigative reporting about topics like tech industry lobbying.

Open.gov hosted information beyond White House visitor logs, some of which — like staff financial disclosures — must be publicly released. Officials told Time that disclosures, salaries, and appointment information would be “integrated” into WhiteHouse.gov, presumably on individual pages rather than a dedicated site. Officials also boasted that doing so would save $70,000 over the next three and a half years, which is enough to pay for nearly one-tenth of a single Tomahawk missile.