"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."*
A veto-proof majority in the House today passed a bill to overturn a Bush administration order which severely limited access to presidential and vice-presidential papers:
The presidential papers bill nullifies a November 2001 order, criticized by historians, in which Bush allowed the White House or a former president to block release of a former president's papers and put the onus on researchers to show a "specific need" for many types of records.
Among beneficiaries of the Bush order was Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, a former vice president and president.
The order gave former vice presidents the right to stop the release of their papers through an executive privilege that previously only presidents could use. And it extended to deceased presidents' designees rights to keep their papers secret indefinitely.
The House bill would give current and former presidents 40 business days to object to requests to view their papers, allow a sitting president to override a former president's claim of executive privilege and strip former vice presidents and the designees of deceased presidents of the power to use executive privilege to block access to their historical documents.
In its veto warning, the White House said the bill encroaches on the president's constitutional authority and the 40-day deadline would force presidents to use executive privilege to block information requests "out of an abundance of caution" and thereby invite litigation.
...Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archives at George Washington University, said the average time to release presidential documents has grown to 78 months from 18 months since the Bush order, which he said directly contributed to one year of the lag.
A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate.
...A third bill, which passed 308-117, was aimed at speeding requests for government information made under the Freedom of Information Act. The White House stopped short of threatening to veto it but said it could not support the bill.
As a member of the American Historical Society, I am pleased to see bipartisan support for this long-overdue attempt to restore openness to government. It is ironic indeed to know that information about ME is open to myriad searches by the FBI, but nothing apparently is so feared in Washington as a historian having the ability to deny the spinmeisters their ability to obfuscate. This is a preliminary victory for our generation and generations to come. Let's hope the Senate does its bit.
Happy Ides of March! As Brutus proclaimed, "Sic Semper Tyrannis!"
*- Title quote by Galileo Galilei, another rebel for truth.
----And, in a similar vein, the wondrous Education Wonks have put together another awesome trip through the Edusphere with the Carnival of Education #110. If you don't explore the Carnival, you'll miss out on the best the internet has to offer!