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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Why does White House withhold logs from press?

The government spent more than $50 million to discover that President Clinton had sex with Monica Lewinski, but government lawyers now say White House visitor logs are privileged information.

The stonewalling adds new meaning to the name "Secret Service."

The Washington Post asked in June for two years of White House visitor logs detailing anyone visiting Vice President Dick Cheney, his legal counsel, chief spokesman and other top aides and advisers. The Secret Service refused to process the request, which government attorneys called "a fishing expedition into the most sensitive details of the vice presidency."

But U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled last week that the Secret Service must produce the records by the end of this week or else justify why they are being withheld. In a written ruling, Judge Urbina questioned the agency's primary argument that Mr. Cheney's right to executive privilege protects the logs.

Open government is a fundamental principle of our democracy. The bright light of public scrutiny helps guarantee honest leadership. Corruption can creep in only when we allow officials to operate in shadows.

One wonders why Mr. Cheney, the Secret Service and the White House are so adamant about keeping visitor records from the American people. What are they hiding?

In light of similar records made public last month revealing Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, key associates of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, landed more than 100 meetings inside the Bush White House, one would think Mr. Cheney would be eager to release the records and prove that there has been no improper contact among him, his staff and lobbyists.

Experience tells us that those who have nothing to hide welcome investigation. Rarely does someone who hasn't been drinking, for example, refuse to take a blood-alcohol test. Put in the language of the White House, those who have no connections with terrorists should have no objection to the government listening in on their telephone calls.

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