A campaign promise got some immediate attention Wednesday when President Obama overturned George Bush's EO 13233.
Obamas memo courtesy of G. W. University http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20090121/2009_transparency_memo.pdf The
Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978
•Defines and states public ownership of the records.
•Places the responsibility for the custody and management of incumbent Presidential records with the President.
•Allows the incumbent President to dispose of records that no longer have administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value, once he has obtained the views of the Archivist of the United States on the proposed disposal.
•Requires that the President and his staff take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records.
•Establishes a process for restriction and public access to these records. Specifically, the PRA allows for public access to Presidential records through the Freedom of Information Act (United States) (FOIA) beginning five years after the end of the Administration, but allows the President to invoke as many as six specific restrictions to public access for up to twelve years. The PRA also establishes procedures for Congress, courts, and subsequent administrations to obtain special access to records that remain closed to the public, following a thirty-day notice period to the former and current Presidents.
•Requires that Vice-Presidential records are to be treated in the same way as Presidential records.
Executive Order 12667 Section 2(b) of Executive Order 12667, issued by former President Ronald Reagan on January 16, 1989, requires the Archivist of the United States to delay release of Presidential records at the instruction of the current President.
Alberto Gonzales, on behalf of the President G. W. Bush, instructed the National Archive to extend for 90 days until June 21, 2001, the time in which President Bush could claim a constitutionally based privilege over the Presidential records that former President Reagan, acting under Section 2204(a) of Title 4, has protected from disclosure for the 12 years since the end of his Presidency. This directive applies as well to the Vice Presidential records of former Vice President George H.W. Bush. Executive Order 13233, which I signed into law on November 1, 2001
The White House press release and the smoking gun disclaimer
" First, let me state what Executive Order 13233 is NOT. It is NOT my father and I conspiring to prevent the release of eight years worth of Reagan administration documents which were scheduled to become public within a matter of weeks. It is NOT the product of my family's abiding fear that the aforementioned documents contain excrutiatingly embarassing revelations about my father and members of the present administration, which, when considered as a whole, could very well call into question the legitimacy of our political dynasty. And finally, it is NOT a patently obvious attempt to dictate how history will judge our Presidencies."
Executive Order 13233 On November 1, 2001, Bush issued Executive Order 13233, limiting the access to the records of former U.S. Presidents. Many critics have noted that the five-page executive order, drafted by the White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, would give either an incumbent president or a former president the right to withhold the former president's papers from the public. Enacting Executive Order 13233 was not the first time Bush and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales had resisted clear law about Freedom of Information in Government. It had also occurred as then-Governor Bush was leaving office in Texas, when nearly 2000 boxes of documents were withheld by G.W. Bush from the Texas State Archives. Bush avoided that FOIA by placing them in daddy's Presidential Library.
On March 1, 2007, a subcommittee of the Committee on Government Reform held a hearing on bill H.R. 1255, the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007. This bill was also introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and its goal was to void Order 13233. At the hearing, several historians argued that Executive Order 13233 has severely curtailed public access to presidential records and added to delays in obtaining materials from presidential libraries. The bill was reported favorably by the full committee, and on March 14, 2007, the House passed the bill in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 333-93. The bill also passed on June 13, 2007 in a Senate committee, but was never brought to the floor for a vote, reportedly due to a hold placed on the measure by Kentucky Republican Senator Jim Bunning As a result, the bill never made it to the floor before the end of the 110 Congress.