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Importance of archiving military records

Betsy writes "The New York Times has an Op-Ed "Foolscap and Favored Sons," piece this morning on the importance of military records, and questions why records from the HMS Bounty are still available while President Bush's military records have been destroyed.(Free registration required.)"
She says clearly the Department of Defense needs to raise the standard of its record-keeping. Perhaps future records should be kept on foolscap paper tied with ribbon: these seem to last for centuries


He ran for congress with the phrase "Special Forces, Korea" on his ballot bio. When pressed about his service, he claimed that his Seargent would have backed this claim up, too bad all other records were classified...

Turns about the Sgt. was still alive, The Oregonion found him, he called Rep. Wes a liar, and Former U.S. Rep. Cooley is now a convicted felon.

Well, by all means do read it - and if you do read it regularly you will find that a wide swath of opinions are published on the Op Ed page. Granted the NY Times is not a conservative paper, however they are also not a completely liberal position paper either.

Believe me, I prefer the real paper - and fortunately I subscribe! :-)

They do have the NYT at my library. I always prefer to read things on paper. No registration required there.

Ways Boston Public Library would better serve...1. BPL should advocate for a mayoral directive for the more routine transmittal
      of current municipal departments' public documents to the BPL Government
      Documents department..2. BPL should advocate for a city council order for the more routine
      transmittal of current city departments' public documents to the BPL
      Government Documents department.3. BPL Government Documents department should collect, acquire and acquisition
      grey literature from city hall that do not get distributed widely enough
      Grey literature comprises nonconventional literature, for example
      consultants' reports, consultants' surveys, technical reports, conference
      papers and theses which are not readily available
      http://greynent.org4. BPL should advocate that our municipality's public information be put on the
      web for example at Boston Public Library would be a better place for one to learn more about
    municipal government affairs and study the hot current issues.. By making more and better information about our city available more readily
    and more easily, city government in cooperating better with the transmittal
    of public documents would inspire the recruitment of more skilled and
    talented young people who are challenged by the difficulties of municipal
    public service.
    Municipal public service could be a first choice challenging career instead
    of something to fall back on by people jaded and discouraged by those same
    difficulties that inspire others.. It is information about our city that allows inspired people to pursue their
    interests, concerns and matters that affect them.
    Lack of information can deflect people initially moved to learn more about
    how municipal government functions, how it really works backstage behind
    the scenes so to speak.
    Lack of this information foments misunderstandings about the accomplishments,
    achievements and aims of city departments, divisions, city commissions,
    city committees, city blue ribbon panels, et alia.

Just an aside here - the NY Times Op Ed page does not "take the slant of the paper" in all of its pieces at all - the most regular writer that I can think of right now who does not is William Safire.

If you don't choose to register, for free, for a newspaper, I'd say you're missing out on a great deal of free news.

Still, I wish they could find my Uncle Clare's records. Non-beltway folks' records get lost too.

How very interesting. Thank you for providing that link. I found it informative.

From a completely historical perspective (not to be construed as a political perspective in any way) I recall a similar case of records disappearing and reappearing in a government office. Now the case about which I am thinking was a bit different as the records were in the custody of a private party who was under court order to produce them. Another difference is that the Rose Law Firm records were not created by the government and the government had no duty to safeguard them. Similarities include the fact that the records were tangentially related to the President and that the records were stored in a government building (which is remarkably odd since they were being stored by a former employee of the Rose Law Firm rather than the firm itself.)

So just to be clear that I am indeed making a distinction between the records held by the DOD and records covered by a subpoena but not produced by someone. In fact for clarity I had best refer to them as JWB and HRC records respectively.

The JWB records are from the 1970's -more than 30 years before they were requested.
The JWB records were the responsibility of the government and in their care, custody and control.
The JWB records were payroll records and there was no need for President Bush to retain his copies beyond the 3 year IRS look back period.
The JWB records were not required to be produced by court order.
The JWB records were not and are not being sought in the course of a criminal investigation.

In contrast the HRC records were ordered to be produced in 1994. The records were created in 1985 and 1986, eight years before they were subpoenaed and ten years before their serendipitous discovery in the Clinton White House.
The HRC records were not in the custody of the originator of the records, the Rose Law Firm, but were in the custody of HRC a one time employee of the firm. The firm apparently did not have a copy or they could have provided it in response to the subpoena. Oddly the only copy of the records was in the care, custody and control of HRC when she was no longer an employee of the firm.
The HRC records were legal billing records. Their retention is governed by state law and generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that require that those records be retained far beyond the prudent retention period used for personal tax records. In most cases the records are kept indefinitely.
The HRC records were required to be produced by court order.
The HRC records were sought for their probative value in a criminal investigation.

I wanted to make that quite clear as I am only concerned with the odd coincidence that records seem to disappear and reappear in Washington quite frequently. Perhaps the custodians should hire librarians and archivists to make sure this sort of thing stops.

On a related note I recall from one of my very wise professors at Trinity noting that "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." He liked to remark that just because there is no elephent dung in your living room does not mean there are not elephants on your divan.

Look, it's the amazing reappearing records!

You have to wonder...

To put politics aside regarding any specific records that were destroyed, I must agree that archiving of records is important.

It seems that microforms have been the way to go for many years, although they too are prone to degradation. However it does solve the problem of storing volumnious records. In one case however, it is noted that records were destroyed during (or perhaps after) the process of archiving was undertaken.

As we move to digital storage we must take into account the permanance of electronic storage media. We now know that CDRom is not as permanant as we once though, and we shall discover I'm certain that we will find that other technologies, perhaps as yet undeveloped, are too not as indestructable as we had hoped.

Since storage space suitable for storing paper based records safely is not inexhaustable, it is obvious that a solution must be found. At this point it seems that electronic archiving with periodic updating to more stable formats- from paper to microform to digitized images - to who knows what will be next- is our best bet.

N.B. I did not read the article for several reasons:
1) I avoid compulsory registration sites
2) My Heywood Jablomie log in to the NYT no longer works
3) As a op-ed piece it would most assuredly take the slant of the paper and I am attempting to be apolitical. From what was posted however it is apparent that records destroyed in an archiving project during the Clinton administration are being attributed to some fault of President Bush.

Who is "JWB" ?The claim that GWB's records had been "accidentally destroyed" during a microfilm preservation effort, was _interesting_ in that it was, coincidentally, only the three months most at issue that were claimed to be "accidentally destroyed." They were miraculously recovered when the skepticism and ridicule became too much.HRC's records, when found, were complete, and actually showed what she'd said they would show. They were missing during the period when it would have been most to her benefit to find them, and turned up again in circumstances that are all too familiar to anyone who's ever moved house.