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Journalists, historians seek immediate release of Reagan papers

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Feb 12, 2002    

Journalists, historians seek immediate release of Reagan papers

  • In a motion for summary judgment, a coalition of open government advocates last week asked the federal district court in Washington, D.C., to disregard President Bush’s executive order blocking release of presidential papers.

Open government advocates and historians who filed suit in November for access to the records of former President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President George Bush asked a federal district court last week to order the agency to immediately release the records.

The National Archives and Records Administration originally planned to release some 68,000 pages of documents from the Reagan era early last year. But the Bush administration, after several requests for delays, crafted Executive Order 13233, which redrafted procedures for releasing the records of former presidents and vice presidents to the public.

The motion for summary judgment filed on Feb. 8 asks the court to order the National Archives to disregard Bush’s executive order and release the records immediately. The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 28 by a coalition that included the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, also seeks a permanent injunction against the executive order.

In a response to the lawsuit, the White House said the court should consider the issue moot because the National Archives plans to release most of the pending records soon. But it did not specify a date for the release.

“The administration has stubbornly refused to recognize that the order violates not only the Presidential Records Act but also clear judicial precedents,” said Scott Nelson, the Public Citizen attorney handling the lawsuit for the plaintiffs. “The archivist is obligated to follow the law, not this unauthorized and unlawful executive order.”

The Presidential Records Act, passed after the Watergate scandals, opened most records of a former president to the public 12 years after the end of his administration. But Bush’s order, issued on Nov. 1, allows both a former president and incumbent president to exert executive privilege to delay the release even after 12 years.

The 12-year period for presidential papers for Reagan and vice-presidential records for former President George Bush expired on Jan. 20, 2001.

(Ex. Order 13233; American Historical Association v. National Archives; Counsel: Scott Nelson, Washington, D.C.) PT

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