If you pay any attention to this blog, you know that one of my number one concerns this election cycle was the status of presidential records. As both a trained historian and a budding archivist, I personally and professionally have a vested interest in how presidential records are retained, presented to the public and governed. As an American I have a stake in any decision that keeps public records from the public.
As I hoped he would, President Obama signed an executive order reinstating the laws set into action by the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and thereby revoking George W. Bush's disastrous and contempt-laden Executive Order 13233. Below is a list of pieces I have written on the topic of secrecy and public documents as well as 13233 specifically:
- Smorgasbord Saturday (1.10.09)
- Laws? What Laws? (12.22.08)
- First and Foremost (11.17.08)
- The Kempthorne Stronghold (5.13.08)
- IHC Lecture: Robert Dallek (5.26.08)
- Bush Presidential Library (2.22.08)
- The Politics of Paper (12.5.07)
Let it be known that as of yesterday, laws will again protect the papers of former Presidents for their preservation as well as for the protection of the public good, a public that certainly has the right to public documents that were created at the public expense.
Former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney attempted to skate these laws by doing away with them shortly after 9/11 and shortly before the invasion of Iraq, but the law caught up to them. We will some day know the truth about the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq because those papers represent it and the Presidential Records Act of 1978 allows us to see it with our own eyes in due time. However, as happy as Obama's executive order has made many historians, even my own idol Robert Dallek, this is not just a victory for those who study history, it is a victory for all of us.
Of course, the skeptic in me has oft envisioned the scene in Thirteen Days when driving past the Soviet embassy the chimneys are smoking and aglow while the Soviets burn their own documents. President Bush must have known that Executive Order 13233 would be revoked eventually. This means one of two things: The White House chimneys were working double-time Monday night or the administration has used every minute since November 1, 2001 wisely where documentation of their actions is concerned.
I just crossed over the line from skeptic to conspiracy theorist, didn't I?