Monday, November 17, 2008

First and Foremost

President-elect Obama has made mention of his plans to change the direction of the White House and effectively, the course of this country. His philosophical differences with the current administration will ultimately lend a great deal to the conversation that will come as he transitions into the White House and reverses policies implemented in the past eight years. Much has already been said about Obama's plan for utilizing the executive order privilege as a means of overturning Bush's most disastrous unilateral policies.

Last week Linda Feldmann of the Christian Science Monitor pointed out three of the potential issues that the Obama administration may move swiftly in addressing--stem cell research, international family planning, and carbon dioxide emissions. Surely Feldmann is pointing to very serious policy issues that require discussion, however my concern on a professional level as well as personally as a citizen ultimately concerned with how those associated with the Bush administration now may behave after January 20, 2009, is whether the Obama administration will act swiftly in reversing Executive Order 13233.

Executive Order 13233, Further Implementation of the Presidential Records Act, states:

Sec. 5. Incumbent President's Right to Obtain Access.

This order does not expand or limit the incumbent President's right to obtain access to the records of a former President pursuant to section 2205(2)(B).

Sec. 6. Right of Congress and Courts to Obtain Access.

This order does not expand or limit the rights of a court, House of Congress, or authorized committee or subcommittee of Congress to obtain access to the records of a former President pursuant to section 2205(2)(A) or section 2205(2)(C). With respect to such requests, the former President shall review the records in question and, within 21 days of receiving notice from the Archivist, indicate to the Archivist his decision with respect to any privilege. The incumbent President shall indicate his decision with respect to any privilege within 21 days after the former President has indicated his decision. Those periods may be extended by the former President or the incumbent President for requests that are burdensome. The Archivist shall not permit access to the records unless and until the incumbent President advises the Archivist that the former President and the incumbent President agree to authorize access to the records or until so ordered by a final and nonappealable court order.

Sec. 7. No Effect on Right to Withhold Records.

This order does not limit the former President's or the incumbent President's right to withhold records on any ground supplied by the Constitution, statute, or regulation.

The number of organization that initially opposed this self-protection by President Bush when the order was signed in 2001 has grown. Those now opposed to his repeal of his own father's previous executive order and portions of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 recognize this Bush order as one destined to protect the Bush administration from investigations into any number of policies, torture coming quickly to mind.

My sincere hope is that President-elect Obama will see this particular order as the National Security Archive, Society of American Archivists, American Historical Association, and the American Library Association have. It is a political maneuver that will serve to protect the Bush administration from any potential investigation. It is as detrimental and devastating to the Constitution of the United States as President Bush's assertion that executive privilege exists after he leaves office.

No comments :