The Obama administration is unlawfully withholding public records about the spring break trip to Mexico funded by taxpayers last March for Malia Obama, according to a new lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, the government watchdog organization based in Washington.
It’s not the first blackout the government has imposed on the trip, Judicial Watch noted.
Press reports of the trip for the then-13-year-old, a dozen friends and an estimated 25 Secret Service agents were erased from the Web on orders from the White House.
The new lawsuit claims not only are the records for the expenses of the trip required to be public, it is illegal for the administration to withhold them.
“Contrary to federal law, the Obama administration has simply ignored this basic [Freedom of Information Act] request. I have little doubt that this stonewall is because of the embarrassment of the security costs for the spring break trip of the Obamas’ daughter,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
The organization previously has ferreted out details, including estimated expenses, for other Obama vacations at taxpayer expense.
For example, the organization said it discovered a February 2012 weekend ski vacation to Aspen, Colo., for Michelle Obama and her two daughters included U.S. Secret Service costs of nearly $49,000.
And Judicial Watch said costs for the U.S. Air Force and the Secret Service for Michelle Obama’s August 2010 vacation to Spain were at least $467,000. Further, a trip by Michelle, her family and her staff to South Africa in 2011 cost another $424,000, excluding transportation, security and other costs.
The lawsuit against the U.S. Secret Service seeks to force compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.
Judicial Watch said it submitted a FOIA request to the Secret Service on March 29 by certified mail seeking, “Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the expenditure of U.S. government funds to provide security and/or any other services for Malia Obama and any companions during her March 2012 visit to Mexico.”
Although the Secret Service acknowledged receiving the letter and assigned it a file number, the administration has refused to respond.
“The Secret Service’s determination was due by May 4, 2012, at the latest. As of the date of this complaint, Defendant Secret Service has failed to … determine whether to comply with plaintiff’s requests [or] notify plaintiff of any such determination.”
It was on March 19 when “numerous online press outlets reported that the president’s 13-year-old daughter, Malia Obama, was on a spring break trip to Mexico accompanied by 25 U.S. Secret Service agents and as many as 12 of her friends.”
However, Judicial Watch explained, “shortly after the press reports surfaced, they were quickly removed from the Internet.”
“The trip reportedly took place shortly after the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a statement advising students on spring break ‘to avoid Mexico.’”
Politico reported at the time that the removal was on orders from the White House.
Kristina Schake, communications director for Michelle Obama, emailed to Politico: “From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls.”
Politico reported the story was picked up by Yahoo, the Huffington Post and the International Business Times along with overseas publications such as the London Daily Mail, the London Telegraph and The Australian. By the end of the day, however, the story had been removed from the sites.