In 2001, President Bush signed an executive order which would allow a President to disallow the publication of Presidential papers as long as he/she wished, even extending that write to descendants. Since these documents are public records except in the case of classified information, this has never been done before. Formerly, all Presidential documents (again, excluding classified materials) were released as the public records they are after a set time past the end of a President’s administration. With the Bush executive order, researchers had to prove a need for the records before they would be released if any relative wished to hold them as non-public records. And that’s pretty hard to prove, when you don’t know what the records hold.
Recently, a judge upheld the public’s right to access to these records and blocked the portion of the executive order which would stop the release of papers.
A federal judge on Monday tossed out part of a 2001 order by President George W. Bush that lets former presidents keep some of their presidential papers secret indefinitely.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the U.S. Archivist’s reliance on the executive order to delay release of the papers of former presidents is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law.”
You might remember Kollar-Kotelly for her work on the Microsoft case. While some of her work in the past has been criticized, I like her for the fact that she has ordered Bush administration officials to speak on the illegal domestic surveillance in the post-9/11 era.
[tags]President Bush, Executive order, Presidential papers, Public documents, Kollar-Kotelly[/tags]