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Tracking history

From the Winter 2009 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 7. The news media works to record…

From the Winter 2009 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 7.

The news media works to record history as it happens. But it needs access to a variety of governmental records in order to do that well. In the last few years, the public has learned that its government was either not retaining important historical records or even, in some cases, actively destroying them.

Government oversight groups are in the midst of a legal battle over access to and preservation of White House e-mail records they claim were sloppily retained from 2001 to 2005. Federal courts have also chastised the Bush administration for destruction of e-mail political aides sent on non-governmental accounts.

An Army historian told a government declassification group in late 2008 that records from military units in Iraq and Afghanistan “are just not kept.” The units often “wipe” their hard drives when they return to the U.S. and not a single unit had returned with a single record as of October 2005.

The historian said the Army is now actively sending out record collectors to ensure a history of events can be obtained. Will Obama’s Defense Department require its units to maintain records and reports?

Will Obama’s White House implement and actually use an e-mail retention policy to ensure the news media can do its job, and track history?