Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Historians Testify at Recent Hearing on Presidents' Authority to Withold Records

History News Network has a helpful overview of last week's hearing on the Bush executive order enabling current and former presidents to withold or delay release of historic records:
On March 1, 2007, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and the National Archives held a hearing to consider presidential records, specifically the impact Executive Order (E.O.) 13233 has had on the disposition of those materials. The E.O. was issued in November 2001 by President George W. Bush, and gives not only current and former presidents, but also vice presidents and a former president's family, the authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely.
Concurrently with the hearing, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), along with Information Policy, Census, and the National Archives Subcommittee Chair William Lacy Clay (D-MO) as cosponsor, introduced legislation (H.R. 1255) that would nullify the Bush E.O.; establish a 40-day records review period for presidents and former presidents to raise objections to the Archivist on the release of records; limit the reach of claims of executive privilege to the sitting and former president personally and not their heirs or designees; and eliminate claims of executive privilege by former vice presidents.
At the hearing, Chairman Waxman said that the Bush E.O. had eviscerated the Presidential Records Act turning it into “the Presidential Secrecy Act.” Waxman went on to say, “History is not partisan,” and that “Historians and scholars need access to our nation’s history as it happened, not as a former president wished it had happened.” The bill is expected to move quickly and markup by both the subcommittee and the full committee may occur as early as next week.

For the rest, and links to HR 1255, click here. Coverage from Inside Higher Ed is here.