Their Records, Our History

Anonymous Patron writes Their Records, Our History ( free reg): When Allen Weinstein took the oath of office as the ninth archivist of the United States last month, he seemed to allude to the controversy that preceded his appointment and to hint — perhaps unintentionally — at the impossible position that any chief archivist now faces.

“In April,” he said in his brief remarks, “we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Archives independence. Under national archivists during both Republican and Democratic presidencies, the tradition of non-political and highest professional attention to the work involved has been the norm. It will continue to be so on my watch.”

In the final analysis, the onus for assuring the public’s right of access to the nation’s present and future historical record lies with Congress, which has twice tried and failed to nullify the Bush order. Congress should not allow the new U.S. archivist to be caught in the untenable position of being compelled to enforce an executive order over an act of Congress. Unless Congress is content to leave our governmental history in the hands of former presidents and their heirs — private citizens, in other words — it must renew bipartisan efforts to overturn Executive Order No. 13233. After all, whose history is it?”