One Small Step For Transparency.

The Obama White House hasn't been as secretive as the Bush White House, but on some issues the two have been close, most notably with both administration's abuse of the state secrets privilege to prevent judicial review of torture, extraordinary rendition, and warrantless surveillance. Another point of contact between the two administrations was the refusal to share White House visitor logs--a decision that as of this morning, has been reversed.

Secret Service lists of White House visitors will be made public three to four months after the fact. There are some exceptions including national security or other confidential visitors such as prospective Supreme Court nominees. Personal friends of the First Family will also be excluded.

The action reverses Obama White House policy which initially continued the Bush White House opposition to release of visitor logs.

Under the new system, names of visitors and the White House officials they were meeting with will be made public. The new policy begins with visitors on Sept. 15, 2009, and the first lists will be made public around the end of the year.

This is a good move. It's important for Americans to know who has influence over and access to the President. It's likely to cause some headaches for the White House in the long run, particularly with the paranoid style being in fashion in American politics today. Bill Clinton's political opponents once put those logs to good use during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But it's ultimately for the best.

-- A. Serwer

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