Does Secretary of State Colin Powell have something to hide?


Don't expect to find out anytime soon. The Bush administration has halted the release of 68,000 pages of documents from the Reagan White House, whose staff included Powell and several other current Bush hands. The papers were due to be delivered into the hands of eager historians in January, but White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez has now twice invoked an executive order to allow the administration to review the papers. The current extension is due to expire August 31.

The papers would have been the first released under the Presidential Records Act of 1978. The act, passed in the wake of Watergate, makes presidential papers public property. But a law intended to make government more open can't last long in Washington. As Reagan left office, he issued the executive order now being exercised by the present administration, giving himself and future presidents an essentially unlimited period to review records before their release, so they could invoke executive privilege to keep anything unpalatable locked away.