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National Archives releases huge cache of Reagan papers

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Mar 13, 2002    

National Archives releases huge cache of Reagan papers

  • The White House allowed archivists to make more pages from the Reagan presidency available to the public, but a lawsuit seeks end of an order exerting rules for the release of presidential records.

The National Archives and Records Administration plans to release more than 59,000 documents from the Reagan administration March 15, more than a year after some 68,000 pages of White House records were due for release.

The estimated 59,850 pages of records from Reagan’s presidency make up the second release of documents after President George W. Bush drafted an executive order that effectively derailed procedures under the Presidential Records Act of 1978 to place such records before the public. The National Archives released 8,000 pages on Jan. 3.

The Archives noted that both Bush and Reagan, along with their advisers, decided not to assert any privilege with respect to these records. Fewer than 200 of the original 68,000 records remain sealed.

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 Executive Order 13233 allows both a sitting president and a former president to halt the release even after 12 years.

A coalition of historians and open-government advocates, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, filed a federal lawsuit on Nov. 28, claiming the order illegally circumvents the law. The lawsuit, in part, sought the immediate release of the Reagan records.

The government asked the court to dismiss the case because of the impending release of the documents.

Attorneys with Public Citizen, which is handling the lawsuit, said the release of the Reagan papers doesn’t affect the lawsuit because the Reagan documents aren’t the only ones affected by Bush’s executive order. Records of other presidents and vice-presidents, including Bush’s father, could remain sealed indefinitely.

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

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