Trump’s White House Will Keep Visitor Logs a Secret

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The visitor logs will be available through FOIA five years later. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The White House under President Trump will keep its visitors logs a secret, the administration announced Friday, citing concerns over privacy and national security, along with the pittance this change will save taxpayers.

The move is a break from the Obama era, when the White House maintained a website with a searchable archive of millions of visitors. That website is now dead.

The Obama policy was not perfect: An exception allowed “purely personal” visits to go unreported, and that exception was often abused. As Time notes, meeting lobbyists at nearby coffee shops, instead of at the White House, emerged as another favored way to skirt the logs.

Still, the Obama policy allowed him to keep his promise, at least in this one area, to have “the most transparent administration in history.” The Trump White House, on the other hand, will keep its visitor logs secret for five years, at which point they would be available through the Freedom of Information Act.

In seeking to justify the change, an unnamed White House official told Time that it was made because of “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.” They also mentioned the money that could be saved by ending the contract for Open.gov. It’s a whole $17,500 a year, or $48 a day.

Trump’s White House Will Keep Visitor Logs a Secret