U.S. President Donald Trump's administration said Friday that it would not disclose the names of people who have visited the White House, ending a policy of President Barack Obama's that was designed to promote transparency.
The Obama White House posted the records online about three months after the visits took place, except those that included names of people considered sensitive or who had personal relationships with the Obamas.
Citing "grave national security risks and privacy concerns," however, the Trump administration has decided to end the practice, except in limited circumstances.
The Trump administration said it would disclose visitor records of certain White House departments, but only through Freedom of Information Act requests. Among those departments are the Office of Management Budget and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
A coalition of three watchdog groups sued in federal court this week to try to compel the release of the visitor logs.
"It's disappointing that the man who promised to 'drain the swamp' just took a massive step away from transparency by refusing the release [of] the White House visitor logs that the American people have grown accustomed to accessing over the last six years," according to a statement from Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also responded sharply to the decision.
"Elected officials work for the people and we deserve to see government business conducted in transparent daylight," ACLU political director Faiz Shakir said in a statement. "This 'Good Friday' news dump is simply the latest in a series of efforts by President Trump to avoid public accountability, and it's not the way to improve the people's declining trust in this administration."
The announcement ended speculation about whether the Trump administration would disclose the visitor logs. The section of the White House website where the Obama administration posted the information has been blank since Trump assumed the presidency January 20.