Bush signed an executive order
November 16, 2001 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Bush signed an executive order on Nov. 1 limiting the public's access to past presidents' papers. Many of Ronald Reagan's documents were set to go public, but the release was delayed while the current White House reviewed the policy for nine months. Now, records don't go public until after 12 years, and once a request is made, the current president and the president in question have to approve access. The only place I saw this reported was in a NYT editorial. Is there something to hide? Is the timing of this order improper?
posted by panopticon (30 comments total)

 
Strange thing is that the executive order isn't listed on the White House's executive orders page.
posted by panopticon at 7:47 AM on November 16, 2001


Is there something to hide?

There is always something to hide, and those who thrive in the culture of secrecy.
posted by rushmc at 7:49 AM on November 16, 2001


It's believed the people in Dubya's administration who were in Reagan's administration, or are direct relatives of people in Reagan's administration, would be embarassed by the disclosure. There are many such people.
posted by fleener at 7:50 AM on November 16, 2001


I don't think it was necessarily done "under the table," as I saw a debate concerning this on CNN (TV, no the website) the day the order was made. I think this just got pushed aside in favor of "sexier" news (which gets at your question of whether or not the timing was proper).

And, yes, there is (justified) backlash against this. Here's a response from the Society of American Archivists on the matter. They also have some excellent background links on the subject.
posted by arco at 7:58 AM on November 16, 2001


Well, it has been reported other places than where you saw it, pan: letter to editor referring to their 11/2 article [no longer free], and editorial on 11/9; and it was on all the wires and has sparked several opinion columns (Yahoo search).

The official repository of executive orders is at the National Archives -- Bush's list -- but it does sometimes take a few days to get in there. Here's the text of EO 13233 [pdf].
posted by dhartung at 7:59 AM on November 16, 2001


Or in Poppy Bush's administration. Washington Post editorial on the executive order and letters to the editor.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:00 AM on November 16, 2001


In case you're looking for even more information, the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy and Security News website has collected some good articles, covering this and a variety of similar subjects. (This was also linked from the SAA site I mentioned above.)
posted by arco at 8:13 AM on November 16, 2001


I believe it was on NPR's All Things Considered that the reporter speculated that with the release of Reagan's papers, Poppy's famous "I was out of the loop" statement (re: Iran Contra) would have been shown to be a misrepresentation as lawyers call flat out lies.

From Iran Contra to this in 15 years...
posted by BentPenguin at 8:20 AM on November 16, 2001


My mantra of late:

Win the war, but you're still gone in four
posted by BentPenguin at 8:24 AM on November 16, 2001


I'm still waiting to hear anyone make a reasonable defense of this. It clearly looks like belated Reagan-Bush cover-ups...

What do they have to worry about? It's not like did anything to abuse their power or betray the trust of the people, like getting a blow job...
posted by mattpusateri at 8:27 AM on November 16, 2001


It's not like did anything to abuse their power or betray the trust of the people, like getting a blow job...

I'm curious as to how people would we react if Clinton had signed such an executive order, or if Clinton doesn't allow his papers released using this order... Time will tell.
posted by drezdn at 8:30 AM on November 16, 2001


Daniel Schorr's commentary on this, Undercutting History, from CSM.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:38 AM on November 16, 2001


i saw it on plastic. OT, israel has the bomb?
posted by kliuless at 8:44 AM on November 16, 2001


I'm curious as to how people would we react if Clinton had signed such an executive order

I'm generally a Clinton-lover, but this order is disgusting, no matter who signed it.

I wonder, though, if this is even enforceable. I understand the executive branch has a lot of power, but is there no way for Congress (perhaps through the Judiciary) to force disclosure of old documents? Surely.
posted by daveadams at 8:46 AM on November 16, 2001


Personally, in light of recent rumors, I would bet this order isn't about protecting past presidents, but current ones. :)
posted by daveadams at 8:47 AM on November 16, 2001


John Dean has an interesting opinion piece on this topic (posted yesterday), which for some reason has executive privelege extend to the vice president: "President Bush has not stated why he sought to change the Presidential Records Act. President Clinton did not challenge or change it during his eight years in office. Ironically, if President Clinton had been the one who issued this new executive order, Republicans in Congress would no doubt have screamed for his impeachment for failing to execute the laws of the land."
posted by owillis at 8:52 AM on November 16, 2001


While Clinton never challenged the PRA, it certainly would be difficult to claim that he never abused executive privilege.
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:58 AM on November 16, 2001


Is anyone else struck by that brass-ball irony of the "Club Fed" gang tripping over themselves to cash in all our personal privacy rights while ensuring the security of their own?
posted by RavinDave at 9:12 AM on November 16, 2001


"or if Clinton doesn't allow his papers released using this order..."

I don't have the link available at the moment but President Clinton made a statement opposing Dubya's actions in this matter. That would indicate, along with his compliance with the law in the past, that Clinton would always support the release of records. If you'd had hardon Kenny in your pants for as long as him there'd be absolutely nothing left to hide anyway.
posted by nofundy at 9:13 AM on November 16, 2001


Reuters: Representatives of former President Bill Clinton have also objected to the order, saying it marks a retreat from his efforts to make government more open, a Clinton aide said.
posted by Carol Anne at 11:11 AM on November 16, 2001


What is up with these "Executive Orders"? Whatever happened to checks and balances?
posted by fieldswn at 11:48 AM on November 16, 2001


fieldswn, see: Bush Order on Military Tribunals is Further Evidence That Government is Abandoning Democracy's Checks and Balances
posted by Carol Anne at 12:03 PM on November 16, 2001


Whatever happened to checks and balances?

That's what's taking place, although the executive branch is acting in bad faith here. Congress makes the laws, but it's up to the executive to implement them. Executive Orders are statements of how the President will go about implementing a particular law.

If the President is abusing his power, then it's up to the Judiciary by properly interpreting the law, or Congress by refining the current law or making a new one, to smack him down. So the checks are in place, they just haven't been used (yet?).
posted by daveadams at 12:24 PM on November 16, 2001


I believe there is something similar going on with his papers from the Texas governorship. I wish I could find a link for more accurate facts than my memory, but I think the dispute is over who owns his papers. Bush is attempting to leave his archives in the hands of someone other than what the state is accustomed to. Any Texans out there who can actually put some links and better facts behind this?
posted by joaquim at 1:02 PM on November 16, 2001


It was also reported here at MeFi although virtually ignored and overlooked in that thread. I knew I'd seen this before.
posted by mikhail at 1:43 PM on November 16, 2001


nice catch. what's that word again?
posted by kliuless at 2:35 PM on November 16, 2001


Check$. And Balance$.
posted by mmarcos at 3:12 PM on November 16, 2001


Here's a link from the Austin Chronicle about the Texas papers. "There is some doubt about who has ownership [of the Bush documents] now," State Archivist Chris LaPlante told the State Library Commission..."
posted by ferris at 5:19 PM on November 16, 2001


Then there is that old story about how he was given a new Texas drivers license, evidently to prevent any traces concerning his alleged cocaine bust in the 70s through the old number .
posted by y2karl at 6:27 PM on November 16, 2001


"I'm curious as to how people would we react if Clinton had signed such an executive order"

Anyone who has a different opinion on the exact same order just because a different person signed it is, to put it lightly, weak. I don't like it now, I wouldn't have liked it then.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:45 PM on November 16, 2001


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