Secret Service to stop erasing White House visitor log information

Secret Service to stop erasing White House visitor log information

The Secret Service on Tuesday said it will stop deleting White House visitor log data temporarily while a court determines whether the data is subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Politico reported Wednesday that in court documents Tuesday night, the Justice Department said that the service would suspend the practice of deleting the information after it is transferred to a data storage center in the White House pending the resolution of the lawsuit.

“Although not necessary to preserve the requested records, the Secret Service has stated that it will retain copies of all [appointment and visitor entry] data during the pendency of this litigation, and Secret Service has suspended auto-delete functions,” wrote Justice Department lawyer Julie Straus Harris in the documents.

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The lawsuit, brought by watchdog group Public Citizen last week, seeks access to visitor logs to four agencies: The Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality.

The group had asked U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper to grant a temporary restraining order that would force the Secret Service to stop handing over the data to the White House while the suit proceeds. 

The suit will determine which agency has ownership over the data, which is a key question.

The Secret Service said the records are property of the White House under the Presidential Records Act, which means they can be kept secret for five years. 

But the four offices listed in the lawsuit are not part of the Executive Office of the President and are typically considered subject to open-records laws.