As those questions get sorted out, it’s worth noting that the White House has gone to pains to emphasize that it has only agreed to release the information voluntarily—meaning that neither the policy’s application nor the fine points of its language will be subject to court review. While both the Bush and Obama White Houses faced lawsuits attempting to compel disclosure of visitor logs under FOIA—and lost them three times at the federal district court level—the question remained on appeal at the time the new policy was announced last month. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which waged many of the key lawsuits, agreed to drop its cases in wake of the administration’s discretionary policy. While questionable application of the policy could draw a new suit on the question of whether the records are under FOIA’s jurisdiction, there is nothing to stop this or any future administration from modifying, ignoring, maliciously misinterpreting, or dropping the visitor disclosure policy at will.
“It’s up to them to live by their agreement,” Mosk told CJR.
While the White House has promised to release the first batch of visitor records from September 15 to October 15, minus withholdings, by late December, plans for a full release of visitor records between the inauguration and mid-September are, at best, vague at this point. (Judicial Watch is threatening to sue over the issue.)
The White House maintains a Web form where anyone can submit a request for visitor information from this eight-month period, for up to ten people at a time. After initially sending a letter requesting visitor records for the president’s top forty-five bundlers to White House counsel Gregory Craig on September 25, Mosk was told to submit the requests online, which he did in early October. On Monday, Mosk says he was told that he could expect the records “fairly soon.” The request remained unfilled at the time of the article’s publication, and it remains unclear when he’ll get them.
“I’m guessing Halloween,” says Mosk. “Or some other inconvenient time.”