Executive Power

The Secrecy Won't Stop on Jan. 21


Think we'll ever get anything close to a full airing of Bush Administration documents? Think again:

"There really is no practical way we know of for NARA to be assured that every document in paper or electronic form has been received from an agency," Dr. Allen Weinstein, the former Archivist of the United States, told Congress last year (pdf, at p. 136).  "Nor can NARA police the records management practices of over 300 federal agencies to ensure that permanent records are not purposefully or unintentionally withheld from the National Archives. Federal agencies are expected to fulfill their statutory responsibilities."

"NARA must rely on the agency records officers, other agency officials, and a vigilant public and press to inform us of any such failure to act," he said.

As for presidential records in particular, Dr. Weinstein said "the incumbent President is solely responsible for ensuring that…components of the Executive Office of the President adhere to the records requirements set out in [the Presidential Records Act]."  Although the President is supposed to obtain the written views of the Archivist prior to any proposed destruction of non-permanent records, "the final disposal authority rests with the incumbent president…regardless of the Archivist's views." […]

Vice President Richard B. Cheney recently argued (pdf, at p. 24) that "The Vice President alone may determine what constitutes vice presidential records or personal records, how his records will be created, maintained, managed and disposed, and are all actions that are committed to his discretion by law"

Whole Secrecy News item here. Reason on Bush Administration secrecy here.


NEXT: Freedom No Longer on the March

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  1. “NARA must rely on the agency records officers, other agency officials, and a vigilant public and press to inform us of any such failure to act,” he said.

    Two entities that have every reason in the ‘verse to keep their mouths shut, and two that don’t give a gorram. Not odds I’d play.

  2. The IT people at my office can see and copy everything I have on my computer.

    Can’t they hire a couple IT guys with a high security clearance at the national archives to just archive everything?

    Although I suppose those in power at the time would never vote for restrictions on their own secrecy.

    Wheres Cincinattus when you need him?

  3. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  4. And. . .What Would the Censor Do?

  5. Remember when the White House just “lost” a huge amount of emails? Right then we knew tons of stuff would disappear. So this is no surprise.

  6. Make no doubt about it, Bush will see it it that everything is neatly swept under the rug!


  7. What we need here is a litigator with a lot of free time and a Federal Judge who has eaten his Wheaties.

  8. So this is why the US scored a 1 in the political freedom category in the Freedom in the World 2009 rankings. Our politicians have more freedom than anybody.

  9. (for those who don’t know, 1 is the best score)

  10. Reinmoose —

    IIRC, it has to do with freedom to create political parties and get ballot access, freedom from harassment while voting, and so forth.

    On those metrics, the US is pretty bad-ass. Not, you know, perfect, but bad-ass nonetheless.

  11. “If I told *you* it wouldn’t be a secret, then, would it?”

  12. Elemenope –
    it was a joke. I read the qualities they look for for political freedom – I know what criteria they use.

  13. Sorry, rein, I thought I was still on the other thread where they were talking about the criteria in (more) earnest. Didn’t shift gears into humor mode! 🙂

  14. Why do we care about what Richard Cheney did? He’s just the vice president, and it’s not like they have any power…

  15. Pro Libertate,

    Oh, quit being so Juvenal.*

    *Assuming he actually wrote that phrase.

  16. ????? ?? ????????? ???? ???????

  17. “Think we’ll ever get anything close to a full airing of Bush Administration documents?”

    Has there ever been anything close to a “full airing” of any other president’s administration documents?

  18. Archivists make it last longer.

  19. For some reason “who guards the guardians?” looks simultaneously prettier and *less* elegant in Greek. Latin cheats with its inflected verbs and its declined nouns running around everywhere, consuming modal particles like they were tic-tacs.

    Prefixes and suffixes are what the Borg do, to assimilate your verbal ass.

  20. Archivists make it last longer.

    What, the boredom or the agony?

  21. No, the douchebaggery

  22. Don’t mess with archivists. We’ll erase you from history.

    NARA has a legitimate complaint, but no one ever gets what they really want from a politician’s archived papers. I’ve never seen one that doesn’t have huge swaths of redacted, missing, or just plain defaced material. If NARA is bitching publicly, I would imagine Bush is disposing of material that is actually illegal for the administration to destroy. Not that issues of legality have ever been high on Bush’s priority list.

  23. NutraSweet, you should go work for NARA. Or better yet, privately contract to Bush to teach him how to really fuck with his papers.

  24. you should go work for NARA

    I’ve trained four people that went on to work for NARA. My influence on them is already profound.

    And Bush can do it himself with this simple guideline:

    If it is even remotely interesting, throw it away.

    I’ve never seen a set of political papers that this wasn’t applied to.

  25. You’d have to be retarded to be surprised.

  26. If NARA is bitching publicly, I would imagine Bush is disposing of material that is actually illegal for the administration to destroy.

    That, and/or some combination of Bush hatred and the knowledge that he is so weakened in the public eye that they can publicly kick him.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

  27. I looked at one the links at Secrecy News that went to a Times article about the amount of electronic records and…

    “If the electronic records of the Bush White House total 100 terabytes of information, as archives officials estimate, that would be about 50 times the volume of electronic records left behind by the Clinton White House in 2001 and some five times the contents of all 20 million catalogued books in the Library of Congress.”

    That’s pretty freaking crazy. I heard most of that 100 terrabytes is of the “Barney Cam”. No, that’s stupid, but that sure is a lot of information.

  28. Oops, I messed up — it should be “terabytes”. Now is this “the war on tera…bytes”. Ehhhhhhh.

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