Friday, March 02, 2007

Access to Presidential Documents

According to today's Inside Higher Education, legislation was introduced in Congress last Thursday that would nullify President Bush's Executive Order 13233 of 2001. This order "effectively grants current and former presidents--and their heirs--far greater discretion to indefinitely classify documents long after the 12-year post-presidency period during which executive privileges have typically applied. Also, for the first time, vice presidents can likewise enjoy the privilege." What would a vice president have to hide? One of the sponsors of the Presidential Records Act Amendment of 2007 is Representative Henry Waxman of California, who stated that "History is not partisan, ... Historians and scholars need access to our nation's history as it happened, not as a former president wished that it happened." The Executive Order could have a negative impact on presidential libraries and what is available to the public for inspection there. According to Steven L. Hensen, a past president of the Society of American Archivists and director of technical services for Duke University's rare books library, "Any presidential library created under this executive order will be a mockery." I keep wondering why the Bush Administration is so unwilling for the public to be privy to its inner workings.

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