Short Cuts: Democrats plan to re-open Presidential archives

The International Herald Tribune is reporting today that Democrats plan a new bill to overturn a current law about the access to presidential archives. The law from 2001 has slowed or even prevented the release of important presidential papers. Until 2001, presidential archives were opened 30 days after a current or former President was notified. The Bush-administration changed the law so a special permit is necessary to release.

Scholars told the IHT that they had serious problems to access archives of former Presidents. For example, the waiting time at the Reagan Presidential Library has increased from 18 months in 2002 to 6 ½ years now. The House Committee on Oversight an Government Reform will discuss the current legislation of the Bush-administration next week.

The legislation was widely seen as an attempt of the Bush administration to get back the power the President lost as an institution after the Watergate affair. The Presidential Record Act from 1978 intended to give the American public ownership to presidential papers. It also helped scholars and authors to write biographies on former administration officials that use quotes not being meant for the public – for example Henry Kissinger referring to the South Vietnamese as “little yellow friends”.

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