White House Visitor Logs Are Full of Holes

Fred Schulte and Viveca Novak at the Center for Public Integrity question the accuracy of the White House visitor logs and intensity of the administration's commitment to transparency:

A foot of snow couldn't keep Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Jennifer Hudson and other celebrities away from a star-studded celebration of civil rights era music hosted by President Barack Obama and the First Lady at the White House on Feb. 9, 2010.

Dylan's haunting rendition of "The Times They are A-Changin" was a highlight of the dazzling evening. The digitally friendly White House even posted the video of his performance on its website.

But you won't find Dylan (or Robert Zimmerman, his birth name) listed in the White House visitor logs -- the official record of who comes to call at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, maintained by the Secret Service.

Ditto Joan Baez.

The logs are similarly incomplete for thousands of other visitors to the White House, including lobbyists, government employees, campaign donors, policy experts, and friends of the first family, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.

The White House website proudly boasts of making available "over 1,000,000 records of everyone who's come through the doors of the White House" via a searchable database.

Yet the Center's analysis shows that the logs routinely omit or cloud key details about the identity of visitors, who they met with, the nature of the visit, and even includes the names of people who never showed up. These are critical gaps that raise doubts about their historical accuracy and utility in helping the public understand White House operations from social events to meetings on key policy debates.

Read the full story at The Center for Public Integrity.

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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