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White House Invokes Secrecy in Abramoff Lawsuits

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    White House Invokes Secrecy in Abramoff Lawsuits Pete Yost, reporting for The Associated Press http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120207Z.shtml Washington - The
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2007
      White House Invokes Secrecy in Abramoff Lawsuits
      Pete Yost, reporting for The Associated Press

      Washington - The Bush administration is laying out a new secrecy
      defense in an effort to end a court battle about the White House
      visits of now-imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

      The administration agreed last year to produce all responsive
      records about the visits "without redactions or claims of exemption,"
      according to a court order.

      But in a court filing Friday night, administration lawyers said
      that the Secret Service has identified a category of highly sensitive
      documents that might contain information sought in a lawsuit about
      Abramoff's trips to the White House.

      The Justice Department, citing a Cold War-era court ruling,
      declared that the contents of the "Sensitive Security Records" cannot
      be publicly revealed even though they could show whether Abramoff made
      more visits to the White House than those already acknowledged.

      "The simple act of doing so ... would reveal sensitive information
      about the methods used by the Secret Service to carry out its
      protective function," the Justice Department argued.

      "This is an extraordinary development and it raises the specter
      that there were additional contacts with President Bush or other high
      White House officials that have yet to be disclosed," said Tom Fitton,
      president of Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that filed
      the suit. "We've alleged that the government has committed misconduct
      in this litigation and frankly this is more fuel for that fire."

      A response by White House spokesman Trey Bohn referred to the
      Secret Service, saying, "We have nothing to add to the USSS. position
      as stated in the court filing."

      Sensitive Security Records are created in the course of conducting
      more extensive background checks on certain visitors to the White
      House. In sworn statements accompanying the filing, two Secret Service
      officers said the extra attention is paid to some visitors because of
      their background, "the circumstances of the visits" or both.

      The Sensitive Security Records were discovered in the course of
      another lawsuit seeking similar records, the court papers state.

      Another private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
      Washington, also has requested Secret Service records of Abramoff's
      White House visits. On Friday, the Justice Department asked for a
      consolidation of the two cases. Such a move would take the CREW case
      from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth and give it to Judge Rosemary
      M. Collyer, an appointee of the current president who is hearing the
      Judicial Watch case. Lamberth, a federal judge for two decades, has
      taken both Republican and Democratic administrations to task during
      his tenure.

      To date, the government has turned over Secret Service records
      referring to seven White House visits by Abramoff - six of them in the
      early months of the Bush administration in 2001 and the seventh in
      early 2004 just before Abramoff came under criminal investigation.

      The White House has released little information about the visits,
      but none of them appears to involve a small group meeting with
      President Bush.

      Nearly two years ago, just after Abramoff had pleaded guilty in
      the influence peddling scandal, Bush told reporters, "I can't say I
      didn't ever meet" Abramoff, "but I meet a lot of people."

      "I don't know him," Bush said at the presidential news conference
      in January 2006. "I've never sat down with him and had a discussion
      with the guy."

      After Bush's comments, Abramoff wrote an e-mail to the national
      editor of Washingtonian magazine saying that Bush had seen him "in
      almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things,
      including details of my kids. Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who

      Time magazine reported that its reporters had been shown five
      photographs of Bush and Abramoff. Most of them, the magazine said, had
      "the formal look of photos taken at presidential receptions."

      In an attempt to bolster its case, the Justice Department is
      citing a lawsuit on a secret operation of the Cold War, the attempted
      raising of a sunken Soviet submarine. In a 1976 ruling, the U.S. Court
      of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit allowed the CIA to
      refuse to confirm or deny its ties to Howard Hughes' submarine
      retrieval ship, the Glomar Explorer.

      "A refusal to either confirm or deny the existence of responsive
      records is a well-recognized and accepted response in circumstances
      such as these," the Bush administration's court filing states.

      The Justice Department probe of Abramoff and his team of lobbyists
      has led to convictions of a dozen people, including former Rep. Bob
      Ney, R-Ohio, former White House official David Safavian and former
      Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles.

      Abramoff is serving six years in prison on a criminal case out of
      Florida. He has not yet been sentenced on charges of mail fraud,
      conspiracy and tax evasion stemming from the influence-peddling
      scandal in Washington.

      On the Net:

      Transcript of President Bush's comments on White House Web site:

      Justice Department summary of Glomar Explorer defense:



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