Inside Higher Ed: Open Up, Mr. President!

March 2, 2007

Open Up, Mr. President!
Elizabeth Redden
Inside Higher Ed
March 2, 2007

Legislation introduced in Congress Thursday would nullify an executive order signed by President Bush in 2001 limiting public access to presidential documents and greatly expanding the scope of executive privilege. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) announced the bipartisan bill during a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing that featured widespread condemnation of the president’s action, not only for its perceived effect of restricting research and freezing the flow of public information, but also for its role in building back-ups at the presidential libraries.

The Presidential Records Act Amendment of 2007 would largely restore the 1978 Presidential Records Act to its form under President Reagan, limit executive privilege to current and former presidents, and set firm deadlines for the review of documents before their public release. A similar bill never made it out of Congress back in 2004.

“History is not partisan,” said Waxman, a sponsor of the bill and chair of the House’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a subcommittee of which held the hearing on presidential records Thursday. “Historians and scholars need access to our nation’s history as it happened, not as a former president wished that it happened.”

Continued here.

Updated to correct the source! Thanks once more to Maarja Krusten.

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Bill may loosen Bush grip on papers

March 2, 2007

Bill may loosen Bush grip on papers
Sudeep Reddy
The Dallas Morning News
March 1, 2007

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday took aim at the Bush administration’s stance on limiting the release of presidential documents, an effort that could determine the ultimate value of President Bush’s library to researchers.

A House bill seeks to nullify Mr. Bush’s November 2001 executive order that allows former presidents and their heirs to keep White House papers secret forever. Critics say the order, now facing a court challenge, would let ex-presidents hide unflattering decisions from the lens of history.

Unless the order is overturned, some scholars said Thursday, Mr. Bush’s library – expected to be built at Southern Methodist University – may be deprived of much of the substance that would make it a meaningful source of information.

Continued here.

For an historian and former archivist’s impressions of yesterday’s hearing, see this comment.