A government watchdog group is suing the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Air Force, alleging that they are violating the Freedom of Information Act by withholding the cost of First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip to Aspen in February.
Judicial Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates government transparency, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia on May 31.
The group’s president, Thomas Fitton, said Wednesday that the lawsuit was necessary because the agency and the military “denied access to the information we were due under law.”
Obama, her daughters and a slew of Secret Service agents arrived on Friday, Feb. 17, and left the following Monday. The first family skied Buttermilk and stayed at the residence of Jim and Paula Crown, owners of the Aspen Skiing Co.
Judicial Watch in April obtained documents from both of the defendants showing the roughly $891,000 cost of trips Michelle Obama took to Spain and Africa in 2010 and 2011.
For the Aspen trip, the organization wants from the Secret Service “all records concerning use of U.S. government funds to provide security and/or any other services to First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and any companions” during the Aspen trip, the lawsuit says.
A response to the Feb. 21 information request was due by law on April 23, the filing says. The Secret Service acknowledged the request but has allegedly neither determined whether to comply nor produced the documents. Agency spokesman Max Milien said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Judicial Watch wants the Air Force to produce documents concerning transportation costs, passenger manifests and “mission taskings,” according to the lawsuit. The request apparently was routed to the military branch’s Air Mobility Command. Officials there said they would respond by May 23 but have not done so, the court filing says. Attempts to reach an Air Force spokesperson were unsuccessful.
With no responses, the information act allows for lawsuits in federal court, Fitton said.
The effort to get the records is “to ensure government accountability, certainly by the president,” and to shed light on the use of taxpayer resources, he said.