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In November 2001, President Bush issued Executive Order 13233, overturning the Reagan E.O. and giving current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely. E.O. 13233 requires the incumbent president to sustain the executive privilege claim of a former president unless a court order is issued to reject the claim. The E.O. also gives “designees” of the former president the right to assert privilege, allowing relatives and others to delay the release of the president’s records. Also under the Bush E.O., the Archivist must wait for both the current and former president to review the records to be released, which could lead to indefinite stalling. As recently reported by the New York Sun, President Clinton is accusing the current Bush administration of delaying the release of the former president’s records. In late September Mr. Clinton said, “I want to open my presidential records more rapidly than the law requires, and the current administration has slowed down the opening of my own records.”
Legislation currently being held up in the Senate would nullify the Bush executive order and establish procedures for the timely release of records. The “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007” (H.R. 1255; House Report 110-44) would reverse the Bush E.O. by establishing a deadline for the review of records, limiting the authority of former presidents to withhold records, requiring the president to make privilege claims personally, and eliminating the ability for Vice Presidents to assert executive privilege claims over vice presidential records. On March 14, 2007, by a vote of 333-93, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1255.
The legislation is currently being held up in the Senate by Sen. Jim Bunning [R-KY]. On September 24, Sen. Bunning objected to floor consideration of the bill, but did not state the reasons for his opposition.
On October 1, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected part of President Bush’s 2001 executive order in a civil lawsuit filed by the American Historic Association. The judge struck down the section of the E.O. that allows a former president to indefinitely delay the release of records.
In comments on the Senate floor on October 15, Sen. Jeff Bingaman [D-NM], the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill (S. 866), spoke of the need to pass H.R. 1255. He said, “The people of this Nation hired the President. His work is undertaken on behalf of the people. Can anyone doubt that the Nation is made stronger and our Government and the electorate are better served by the study of the actions of past Presidents?”
TAKE ACTION: Call Sens. Bunning and McConnell to ask them to allow the presidential records reform bill (H.R. 1255) to come to the Senate floor for a vote.
As reported in the Sept. 6 edition of the Policy and News Updates, at least 5 million emails went missing from March 2003 to October 2005, according to a report by CREW. The missing emails were discovered by the White House in 2005, according to a briefing given to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staff by Keith Roberts, the Deputy General Counsel of the White House Office.
National Freedom of Speech Week celebrated Visit the Policy and News Updates Archive here
Several of our coalition partners are participating in National Freedom of Speech Week, October 15-21. Visit www.freespeechweek.org to learn more and read ideas for celebrating.
National Freedom of Speech Week celebrated
Visit the Policy and News Updates Archive here