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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/ 1/2007

Is Hillary Responsible for the 'Library Lockdown'?

By Michael Dobbs


Former President Clinton joining his wife on the campaign trail.

"Well actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves. There's about 20 million pieces of paper there...I think that, you know, the Archives will continue to move as rapidly as its circumstances and processes demand."


--Hillary Clinton, Democratic debate, October 30, 2007, in response to a question from Tim Russert on delays in the release of Clinton presidential papers.


"Library Lockdown Continues. Clintons 'Tightly Control' Release Of Hillary's Records; Inaccurately Blame White House For Backlog"


--Republican National Committee Press Release, October 22, 2007


To hear the Republicans talk, any delay in releasing Clinton presidential records is all the fault of the Clintons. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, would have us believe that she and her husband have nothing to do with the release of their own records. So who is telling the truth?


The Facts

Both sides are being disingenuous, and are omitting inconvenient facts. Because of cumbersome declassification procedures introduced by President Bush, there are now huge delays in processing Freedom of Information requests at all presidential libraries, including the Clinton and Bush I libraries. But the Clintons are themselves taking advantage of a clause in a November 2001 Bush presidential order that permits former presidents to take all the time they need to review FOIA requests.

According to National Archives officials, 26,000 pages of Clinton presidential records are being held for release to researchers after being submitted to Clinton lawyer Bruce Lindsey for review. The records have been screened and processed by Archives officials under the Freedom of Information Act, but cannot be released to the public until Lindsey signs off on them as President Clinton's designated representative.

Lindsey did not respond to telephone calls. An associate, who asked not to be named, said Lindsey processed 4,000 out of the outstanding pages last week. The associate said Lindsey was going through the documents himself one by one at the presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, but he is "just one person" and can not delegate the work to other people. He blamed any delays on the new bureaucratic procedures ordered by Bush under Executive Order 13233.

A Clinton campaign spokesman, Jay Carson, said the former president had "consistently been an advocate for releasing his presidential records as quickly as possible" and had opposed the Bush administration order that placed new restrictions on their release.

There is, however, nothing in Executive Order 13233 that obliges a former president, or his representative, to go through the records one by one. If former President Clinton is so opposed to the Bush administration order, he could simply instruct Lindsey to approve the documents wholesale.

Once Lindsey approves the release of the documents, they then go to the White House for a final review. Bush spokesman Scott Stanzel said the White House has approved the release of all records it has received so far from Clinton's office.

How much these documents will tell us about the inside workings of the Clinton White House once they are finally released is another matter, of course. They represent a drop in an ocean of presidential memos, e-mails, and transcripts of telephone conversations that will take decades to process. Another 10 million documents have become the subject of nearly 300 recent FOIA requests, still to be processed by the Archives.

According to Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a non-profit group that monitors declassification procedures, delays in processing FOIA requests have mounted steadily during the seven years of the Bush presidency. Back in 2001, it was taking the Reagan library between 16 and 18 months to process a FOIA request. It now takes six and a half years. According to the National Archives, the current backlog for processing FOIA requests to the George H.W. Bush presidential library is four and a half years.

Some of these delays are the result of staffing shortages. But some are caused by the need to submit documents to former presidents for review. According to Allen Weinstein, the archivist of the United States, an average of 90 days was spent on such reviews in 2004. By April 2007, the average time devoted to such reviews had increased to 210 days.

Blanton praised former President Clinton for releasing "more historically valuable documents and more secret documents than all previous presidents put together." He said across-the-board declassification orders during the Clinton administration and new restrictions on declassification under Bush had overwhelmed the system. Prior to the 2001 Bush order, the National Archives could automatically release records on its own initiative after 30 days, provided that no objection was received from a former president or government agency.

"The process is really daunting," said Susan Cooper, spokeswoman for the National Archives. "Every FOIA requests requires a huge amount of work. A lot of these requests are fishing expeditions, requiring us to look at millions and millions of pages. Once we have vetted everything for classified material, it then goes to the former president's representative, and then the current president. It is really cumbersome."

Some news organizations have made an issue out of a letter President Clinton wrote to the Archivist in 2002 exempting all-but-routine "communications" with the First Lady from the general release of records until 12 years after the end of his presidency, i.e. 2012. We find this less of a problem than the delays in processing FOIA requests. Bill Clinton can reasonably claim to be following precedent in this particular instance. His predecessors, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, requested similar exemptions for communications with their "advisers."

On the other hand, neither Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush ever ran for the presidency of the United States.

The Pinocchio Test

Nobody comes off particularly well on this one. Republicans lack credibility when they criticize the Clintons for dragging their feet on the release of presidential records. The 2001 Bush executive order reversed many of the gains made during the Clinton years on access to government archives and release of secret information. But Hillary Clinton should not pretend she is an entirely innocent bystander. It is clear that former presidents have considerable say in deciding which of their records get released, and that influence has increased greatly under Bush II.

Two Pinocchios for both Clinton and the RNC.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | November 1, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  2 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, History  
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Comments

If you think there is precedent, why don't you say what that precedent is? Which of the former First Ladies or Senior Presidential Advisers were shielded by secrecy when running for President? Shouldn't this sort of commentary be left to the editorial page?

"Some news organizations have made an issue out of a letter President Clinton wrote to the Archivist in 2002 exempting communications with the First Lady from the general release of records 12 years after the end of his presidency, i.e. in 2012. We find this less of a problem than the delays in processing FOIA requests. The former president can reasonably claim to be following precedent in this particular instance. "

Posted by: CGibson | November 1, 2007 6:35 AM | Report abuse

One thing left out of your analysis, and I think it germane...possibly key to The Clintons 'using' the delays allowed. The records once they have released them then go to the Whitehouse. Given the record of this administration it could reasonably be presumed that any information that could be detrimental to the Clinton campaign would most certainly be set aside until the optimal time for releasing it.

That point is doubly concerning when you add in that the WH would have access to information that would not be in the public release but when combined with the released Clinton document could be devastating taken out of context and not rebuttable because of pseudo-classification of the linking information. No, all in all the American public is the loser, but to place any blame at all on Clinton this time is not appropriate.

Posted by: Didereaux | November 1, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I think you should be looking into why the Blight House witholds information regarding all of the investigations that are going on. Hiding behind Executive Privilage everytime they're asked to turn over papers just shows their guilt. Looks to me that you are on a witch hunt again and your Bushco cronyism is showing. Why a newspaper like the Washington Post even let's you conduct these hunts is disgraceful. If you showed any bipartisanship I might not be offended. I can bet the bank that we'll see a lot more coming from you and it'll be interesting to note the % aimed at Democratic candidates,especially Hillary. Since we're in the mood to release Archive Papers,Let's start with the Kennedy Assasination papers.Now that might open up a hornets nest. Why wait until 2050,what's so damaging that they can't be released now? Go ahead and continue your little hunts but try aiming some at your own party,you might be amazed at what you find.

Posted by: jime | November 1, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

The fact checker seems to have this one wrong, in terms of balance. We should not forget, as Didereaux points out, that this is not happening in a vacuum. It is a political season with both sides looking for an advantage. The option offered by fact checker, and the basis for its rating of Clinton on this point, is that the Clintons could do a "wholesale" approval of the documents. Not very judicious in my mind. Therefore, I think the ones raising this are the ones that deserve an even higher rating. The Clintons are following the RULES, which is the fact.

Posted by: GWG | November 1, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

jime: are you kidding? Bushco cronyism? Have you not read the body of work produced in this blog? About as even-handed as it gets. And by the way, slamming someone is not a useful form of debate...

Posted by: what???? | November 1, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

and there was spikey mikey bouncing in his hardball chair the other night just salivating at the policy papers with hillary's fingerprint... ooohhhh...

the beltway villagers -- if only they could relive their glory years of sniffing out dna stains on a blue dress. once hillary is elected, maybe they can draw straws to see which one of them gets to sniff the sheets in their ongoing obsession with the clinton marital bed.

Posted by: linda | November 1, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Many cudos to GWG who I agree with wholeheartedly. The Clinton's are following the rules and (sorry FactChecker) unprecedented wholesale release of documents does not pass the laugh test... so much for the Pinocchio test.

I think the subtle and not-so-subtle attacks on Senator Clinton's *character* (NOT policy/actions) by other Democratic presidential hopefuls are harmful to the party's general election interests, no matter who wins the nomination, as well as tasteless and disingenuous.

FactChecker- How bout a review on the honesty of statements by Obama/Edwards/Dodd attacking Senator Clinton on this totally overblown [non]issue?

Posted by: YoungVoter | November 1, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree wholeheartedly with the desire for prompt release of the Clinton records, but is it really Hillary Clinton's call? She wasn't President. Does a former First Lady have any official say about releasing Presidential records? Or is that solely the province of the former President? There might be an assumption on our part that she can influence such a decision because he's her husband, but that isn't necessarily so. What does the law say about this?

Posted by: Frugal 1 | November 1, 2007 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I must say, I think this is ridiculous. I'm a Clinton supporter, fine. But I wasn't that happy with the answer myself. Now I read this well-written display of the facts, and I see that Clinton is RIGHT. And then I see the commentary!!!
How are they both at fault?
I don't think any of us should ever expect any President to just release papers on a blanket basis. (If the other posters think that's okay, may burglars go through your underwear drawer tonight.)

But part of the FACTS include this:
(1) "Blanton praised former President Clinton for releasing "more historically valuable documents and more secret documents than all previous presidents put together." He said across-the-board declassification orders during the Clinton administration and new restrictions on declassification under Bush had overwhelmed the system. Prior to the 2001 Bush order..."
and
(2)"The process is really daunting," said Susan Cooper, spokeswoman for the National Archives. "Every FOIA requests requires a huge amount of work. A lot of these requests are fishing expeditions, requiring us to look at millions and millions of pages.

I will say that Hillary might not want them released. But, after giving us some great facts, to opine that the Clintons and the RNC are both sleazy is really, really unfair. Yes, she's running for President. But they are BIll clinton's papers. If he had normally had an outstanding track record and BUSH put up roadblocks that slowed down the process, Clinton has to work under different rules.
No, he gets to treat HIS papers in a dignified manner. I had NO IDEA that he had released more papers than any other President COMBINED until reading it just now, and I had no idea GWB had ordered things to be done differnetly.

Those FACTS are huge. Can't you see that?

Posted by: Jan | November 1, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

If "Billary" doesn't want to release the records of her "senior advisor" status in during the Clinton years, then we should simply ignore any and all claims to "experience" she makes.

If any of us put something on our resume or curriculum vitae that we couldn't or wouldn't substantiate, we'd not get the job. I think the same standard should hold for former First Ladies who decide to run for president.

Billary needs to put up or shut up.

Posted by: jade7243 | November 1, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Jan, Mr. Blanton's comment about the volume of declassified material appears to be centered on items released during the Clinton administration. There were various openness initiatives in effect during the 1990s while Mr.Clinton was President. Some centered on the Department of Energy during Hazel O'Leary's tenure there, others centered on bulk declassification efforts relating to historical documents. Back in the 1990s, George Lardner of the Washington Post did a good job covering these issues. You can read up on some of that in the Post's electronic archives.

As to Ms. Cooper's comment that "Every FOIA requests requires a huge amount of work," I do not know why she made such a blanket assertion. Some FOIA requests potentially involve a large volume of material, others would not. As a former National Archives' archivist, I can help clarify this.

As a forward looking hypothetical, say whoever is President in the year 2011 visited Chicago, Illinois in March of that year. Say you, as a resident of Chicago, remembering that visit, wrote in to the Library 20 years later, in 2031, asking for information about such a date- and location-specific visit. The archivists at that President's future NARA-administered Library would not have to comb through millions of pages of documents. They would go to the file series likely to hold such information, such as White House Central Files: Trip Files, which are case files kept roughly in chronological order. (Various Presidential Libraries' websites offer explanations of the Central Files filing schemes. The Trip Files are open at most of the older Libraries.)

I do not know why these issues generally are covered with so little context. No wonder so many people are confused. Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the former President can select from a menu of restrictions which he can ask to be applied for a 12 years period. After that the FOIA exemptions, except for the one covering deliberative (predecisional) information, apply. Presidential Libraries may at that point open predecisional records.

As further context, keep in mind that prior to Watergate, Presidential records were considered personal property. Upon leaving office, the President could screen them, destroy what he wanted, pick out portions, and donate them to Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives using a deed of gift. The deed typically contained various restrictions. Lyndon Johnson, for example, stipulated that his taped White House conversations be sealed for 50 years. (He died in 1972. His tapes started to be opened slowly in the 1990s, since his widow permitted archivists to start screening them.) The Libraries varied greatly. Gerald Ford, for example, supported openness and early access. I would love to have worked at his Library (I once worked elsewhere at NARA with Presidential records).

Richard Nixon's were the first records placed under public control under the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, 1974. Despite a statutory mandate to release "the full truth" about Watergate abuses of power, a mere 63 of 3,700 hours of Nixon's tapes were opened while he was alive. 200 hours of Watergate related tapes finally were released in 1996, two years after Nixon died and four years after Professor Stanley Kutler filed a lawsuit for access to them (Civ. A. 92-662-NHJ).

It is important to keep in mind that there are two different types of National Archives-administered Presidential Libraries, ones with donated materials where the Presidents deeded the items to the Archives (Presidents Herbert Hoover through Gerald Ford), and statutorily controlled ones (under the PRMPA, 1974 and PRA, 1978). The concept of public control, with the public's ability to request items under FOIA, is a relatively new one.


Posted by: Former Archivist | November 1, 2007 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Two corrections: LBJ died in 1973, not 1972, I missed the typo. And the donor restricted libraries run through Jimmy Carter, not Gerald Ford. Although the PRA was passed in 1978, it did not take effect until 1981. So Ronald Reagan's are the first PRA-controlled records. Sorry, I should have read more carefully before hitting submit.

Posted by: Former Archivist | November 1, 2007 7:58 PM | Report abuse

There seems to be a misconception here. The issue is not whether former President Clinton, through his representative, should order the release of all his papers on a blanket basis. The issue is whether he should agree to the prompt release of 26,000 documents requested by FOIA that have been screened by non-partisan professionals, using the criteria that he himself has laid down in his letter to the Archivist. It is certainly true that he is within his rights to do this, under the new Bush Executive Order. But he himself opposes that Executive Order as unnecessarily restrictive. I don't think that it is a stretch to see a contradiction here.

Posted by: Fact Checker | November 1, 2007 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Fact checker correctly refers to archivists as non-partisan professionals. Materials rise to the level of review by a former President (or his representative) for Presidential communications privilege, etc., only after they have been screened by NARA's archivists for application of statutory restrictions. Archivists turn over for that review materials which are proposed for opening by NARA.

There is a fair amount of information out there about all this. Indeed, NARA explains some of this on its website. Public Citizen offers some interesting narratives on its website, look for ones by lawyer Scott Nelson, who once worked on Richard Nixon's legal team, then went to work for Public Citizen.

I'm not taking a position here on what should be done with the records at issue. I'm just following the news coverage with interest, how the issues are presented, since I once worked at NARA with Presidential records.

Posted by: Former Archivist | November 1, 2007 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Note to Fact Checker: Even before President Bush issued E.O. 13233 in November 2001, former Presidents had the right to review what NARA proposed to open. See U.S. Archivist John W. Carlin's statement from August 2001, which precedes the E.O. 13233. See
http://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/laws/access/reagan.html
Keep in mind, Gov. Carlin did not know at this point that the WH would issue an executive order shortly. He wrote in August 2001 that

"However, even after twelve years, both the former and current Presidents still review Presidential records prior to release to consider whether to assert the privilege that covers communications between the President and his advisors and among the advisors themselves, or any other deliberative records."

Posted by: Former Archivist | November 1, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

It desn't look like two Pinocchios to me. On one side you have the FOI laws slowing down opening over which no one has control. On the other you have footdragging by the Clinton camp. I say Clinton gets a Pinocdhion and not the RNC. (I'm a Democrat)

Posted by: John Dixon | November 1, 2007 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Hillary should just send her ADVISOR Sandy Berger to pick them up... (He may need to get some baggy pants and stronger underwear) and then the problem would just go away.

Look.. she can't have it BOTH ways.. She uses it (Whitehouse years) as experance on one hand and then she cries foul when asked to verify.

She wants to be the Leader of the Free world but never answers simple questions when SHE brings up the issue.

Posted by: Knight_Tyme | November 2, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Do we all want more information on Hillary so that we can make a more educated choice for President in 08? Yes. But these 4 archivists are not going to be able find a document amongst millions and produce it in a matter of seconds, hours, or even days.

If the taxpayers want to increase the NARA budget so that they can hire some more archivists, this might help speed up the process. "Knight_Tyme", since this bothers you so, I recommend that you write (and use spell check this time please) your Congressman/woman and tell them that you want to foot the bill to hire some more archivists to process these papers. With more staff, they will get them out to all those who want them in a more timely manner and keep Sandy Berger from stealing more stuff.

Posted by: Current Archivist | November 2, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Your column had one glaring ommission. The House overwhelmingly (333-93) passed bi-partisan legislation (HR 1255) to overturn the Bush Executive Order 13233 that allows former presidents unlimited time to review records. When the Senate tried to take up the bill last month under unanimous consent, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) put a hold on it at the behest of the White House who has threatened to veto it. So if the RNC wants to wail about Hillary's alleged blocking of the release of her records, they should call the White House and tell them to stop blocking the bill!! The Clintons are simply playing by the rules that Bush himself established.

Posted by: Even Handed | November 2, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

For all the back and forth, and good info (thx) I still agree with Even Handed.
---
re by Jade7243: "If "Billary" doesn't want to release the records of her "senior advisor" status in during the Clinton years, then we should simply ignore any and all claims to "experience" she makes."

Please, ignore any and all of her claims to her experience that you want. That's what freedom is all about. This is America.

No one is stopping you from ignoring anything you want to ignore in this Presidential election..

Posted by: Jan | November 2, 2007 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Current archivist writes that "But these 4 archivists are not going to be able find a document amongst millions and produce it in a matter of seconds, hours, or even days." There are several issues here.

One involves FOIA, under which requests are placed in queues in the order in which they are received but can be expedited in a two-track system. Some discretion is possible in terms of designating something for expedited processing. See Part VI at
http://www.archives.gov/foia/foia-guide.html
at which the National Archives states that it can place requests for Presidential records in expedite status.

As to an archivist not being able to find something in a matter of days, I don't agree with that blanket assertion. If a request is broadly worded (i.e., "please send me all the information on the President's policies regarding Country X") it would take time to look through all the pertinent records (electronic or paper). But if it is narrowly worded ("please send me information relating to the Department of X and its contact with the White House in Year Y to the [specific diplomatic] incident in Country Z," an archivist well informed on how the records were kept could find information readily.

At the newer Presidential Libraries, this need not be a manual search in all instances, automated searches are possible in some cases. See
http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200508/8-17-05%20Reagan%20Lib%20to%20Leahy%20(2).pdf
which refers to a search for materials related to John Roberts using the CTRACK system at the Reagan Presidential Library. Indeed, NARA in its public presentations, such as at the Society of American Archivists conference in August 2006, has discussed the ability of archivists to respond quickly to searches such as the one triggered by Roberts's nomination.

That is not to say that resources are not an issues -- NARA definitely needs more but is in the same constrained position in terms of how taxpayer dollars are allocated as are many other civil agencies. Too much effort at linking access to resource issues seems awkward, however, as the issues are very complex and vary at different Presidential Libraries, old and new.

Posted by: Former Archivist | November 3, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

The fact checker wrote:

"The issue is whether he should agree to the prompt release of 26,000 documents requested by FOIA that have been screened by non-partisan professionals, using the criteria that he himself has laid down in his letter to the Archivist. "

1) If the issue is what BILL Clinton should do, then why give HILLARY Clinton any pinocchios? Should we hold Mrs. Michael Dobbs responsible for all the moronic statements that you've made here at "Fact Checker"?

2) As someone has noted above, you keep forgetting that the HIGHLY PARTISAN Bush White House has to sign off on the release of the records as well. Bill Clinton would be an idiot to allow the Bush administration to determine which records to release -- especially when IDIOT "fact checkers" blame Hillary Clinton, and call her a liar, for what Bill Clinton is responsible for.

Posted by: paul_lukasiak | November 4, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I see there still is some confusion over how this all works. There are constitutional rights and privileges involved here. Federal statutes, regulations and orders govern the process of releasing the records of former Presidents.

It was not always thus, until the 1970s, a former President's WH records were considered his personal property. He could shred them, screen them, donate portions to Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives, and set restrictions on access to them via deed of gift. LBJ told the National Archives he wanted his taped Presidential conversations sealed for 50 years after his death.

So, the concept of public control is relatively new. The Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, 1974 covers Nixon's materials and the Presidential Records Act of 1978 covers Presidents who took office starting in 1981.

Courts have upheld former Presidents' rights to claim privilege but judges also have stated that the confidences of higher office erode over time. Under the PRA of 1978, a former President can ask for a 12 year period that certain restrictions apply to records held by NARA at his library. Even after the 12 year period is up, he has the right to assert communications privilege, asking that NARA not release records that it has deemed in its independent archival reviews as disclosable.

Laws recognize (and judges continue to uphold) the right of the sitting and former President to review what NARA proposes to release. There is nothing skanky about this, it is a Constitutional right. The NARA archivists first screen records to see if they want to restrict anything under statutes covering national security, privacy, etc.. Then they pass on the potentially releasable, unclassified portions for privilege reviews by the former President's rep and by the WH.

The Bush Executive Order of 2001 extends the ability to claim privilege to a Vice President and to a President's family members in the event of his death or incapacity. Under E.O. 13233, a President's descendants potentially could block NARA from releasing certain matters in perpetuity. The constitutionality of the order as a whole has not been addressed by a court, although a District Court judge recently overturned one small portion of it.

The argument embodied in E.O. 13233 that privilege extends beyond the office holder to his children, who never held executive office, would appear difficult to sustain. I know of no other place in the government where it is upheld. If your parents once worked for the federal government, and you worked in private industry, you could not expect to come in and tell a federal FOIA officer for the place youe Mom or Dad once worked in what that official could release from the records of a federal agency or department.

Posted by: Former Archivist | November 4, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"Is Hillary Responsible for the 'Library Lockdown'?"

As has been pointed out above, WJC has complete legal responsibility. Therefore, the answer to the question posed in the title is: No. In the absence of proof of collusion by HRC and WJC any other answer (including assignation of Pinocchios) is speculative.

The RNC has everything to gain, and HRC everything to lose, if these papers are released. Find some other set of 'facts' to 'check,' preferably ones that the RNC hasn't set out for you like poisoned bait in front of a mouse.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | November 5, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

If nothing else, this has provided an opportunity to discuss the complicated laws and processes that surround the records of Presidents (Democratic and Republican) at the National Archives. As someone who used to work with Presidential records, I find the public response especially interesting.

I suspect if a blogger on the Washington Post's site explained the intent behind the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and then put out a general poll question, "Do you support the records act?" many respondents would vote "yes." But if you plugged in the names of various past Presidents, Republican or Democrat, and asked people to consider the act in terms of access to the papers of named individuals, the results might differ. However, laws are supposed to be applied in an objective nonpartisan fashion.

To understand why the records act inherently is so difficult to apply, think about your careers. Would all of you say, "I did what I did, let researchers examine my paper trail at will?" Would you accept, as former Presidents must, that some people will examine your actions objectively and fairly while others will cherry pick the evidence and use portions against you? Or would you think to yourself about some of the things you once wrote, "I really don't want some of this out until after I'm gone."

I never see anyone touch these real-life questions when I read op eds and commentary about the work that I used to do.

Posted by: Former Archivist | November 6, 2007 7:29 AM | Report abuse

This rightly points out that neither side is without fault in the debate over the release of records relating to Sen. Clinton. Bush's Executive Order put large loopholes in the Presidential Records Act, enabling presidents and former presidents to delay the release of documents indefinitely. However, the article does not mention that there is a fix to the Executive Order. Legislation to repeal the order passed the House, but is somehow stuck in the Senate, but Senator Clinton is not a cosponsor of the bill, the Presidential Records Act Amendments. Why not? If Senator Clinton is really serious about wanting less secrecy, she could demonstrate her interest in openness now by signing on to the bill to repeal the Bush Executive Order that allows records to be kept out of the public domain indefinitely.

Posted by: Angela Canterbury | November 12, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Former Archivist, I would very much like to thank you. Your insights have been very informative and fairly clear. We're homeschooling and I'm printing this entire thread for when we tackle this section of civics; our oldest is a 4th grader, so he' not quite ready for this level quite yet ;-).

Thank you again for your time and clarity.

Posted by: R Hayward | December 14, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"Some news organizations have made an issue out of a letter President Clinton wrote to the Archivist in 2002 exempting all-but-routine "communications" with the First Lady from the general release of records until 12 years after the end of his presidency, i.e. 2012. We find this less of a problem than the delays in processing FOIA requests. Bill Clinton can reasonably claim to be following precedent in this particular instance. His predecessors, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, requested similar exemptions for communications with their "advisers."

On the other hand, neither Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush ever ran for the presidency of the United States."

EXACTLY. This request was carefully timed to allow her to run for president BEFORE the timeline ran out. Billary was not an advisor.

Posted by: I prefer truth, thank you | December 20, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

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