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The required transfer in four weeks of all of the Bush White House's electronic mail messages and documents to the National Archives has been imperiled by a combination of technical glitches, lawsuits and lagging computer forensic work, according to government officials, historians and lawyers.
Dick Cheney's lawyers are asserting that the vice president alone has the authority to determine which records, if any, from his tenure will be handed over to the National Archives when he leaves office in January.
That claim is in federal court documents asking that a lawsuit over the records be dismissed. Cheney leaves office Jan. 20, potentially taking with him millions of records that might otherwise become public record.
"The vice president alone may determine what constitutes vice presidential records or personal records, how his records will be created, maintained, managed and disposed, and are all actions that are committed to his discretion by law," according to a court filing by Cheney's office with the U.S. District Court on Dec. 8.
On Tuesday, December 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit established important restrictions on the power of the federal government to impose gag orders on recipients of National Security Letters (NSLs). Currently, the recipient of an NSL cannot challenge a gag order for one year, and the chances for success are limited by a provision of the law that requires judges to regard as "conclusive" government assertions that secrecy is necessary to protect national security. The Second Circuit ruled that these provisions limit First Amendment rights.
National Archivist Allen Weinstein Resigns: On December 7, historian Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States, submitted his resignation to the president, effective December 19, 2008. Professor Weinstein, who has Parkinson's disease, cited health reasons for his decision.
Deputy Archivist of the United States, Adrienne Thomas, will serve as Acting Archivist until a new Archivist is appointed, in accordance with the National Archives governing statute, 44 USC 2103(c).
Since the presidential transition from Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush, George Washington University's National Security Archive has been a watchdog of federal e-mail preservation policies. Most recently the archive, which manages a library of security documents, joined a lawsuit that seeks to hold the George W. Bush White House and the National Archives and Records Administration accountable for backing up and cataloging electronic records, which must be preserved under the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act.
NationalJournal.com's Theresa Poulson spoke with Meredith Fuchs, the general counsel to the National Security Archive, before the election about the risks of the upcoming transition and the organization's expectations for the next president. Edited excerpts follow.
Executive Order No. 12958 states that, with a few exceptions, federal records are to be automatically declassified when they become 25 years old. Even so, said the Archives' Jeanne Schauble, "no agencies have been willing to let their records be automatically declassified without them having some opportunity to make sure there's nothing in them they feel needs continued classification."
"It gets to be a rather complex process," Jeanne said. "I can say that after review generally somewhere from 85 to 90 percent will be cleared."
In some agencies, the number of documents that are declassified is classified.
I scanned a government report called Failed promises : insurance company insolvencies (Report by the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce). I thought others might have patrons that are looking for this document. You can download the PDF here.
Note: Report is from Nov. 1990 and deals with previous insurance company failures. People are looking for this document because it addresses what happened in the past.
Someone sent over a link to This Federal Register Notice from the EPA: SUMMARY: EPA is enhancing access to library services for the public and Agency staff. EPA will open previously closed libraries in its National Library Network, with walk-in access for the public and EPA staff. Other library locations will expand staffing, operating hours, or services. This notice provides information regarding how members of the public can access the libraries and services beginning September 30, 2008.