|Freedom of Information
|Sep 7, 2001
White House delays release of Reagan papers for third time
- Counsel for Bush administration says further delay needed to review files and to consult with advisors of three former presidents.
Ronald Reagan’s White House records, due to be released to the public earlier this year, remain sealed as the Bush administration recently asked for a third extension in which to consider their release.
The papers, some 68,000 pages comprising discussions among Reagan and his advisors, were to come out in January, but the White House continues to ask for more time to review the papers. In March, it requested a June 21 deadline; in June, an Aug. 31 one.
In an Aug. 31 letter to National Archivist John Carlin, the Bush administration didn’t offer a specific deadline for the third extension. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales said the administration would need “several weeks” to review the records and to consult with advisors of former Presidents Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton.
As in previous letters, Gonzales wrote that the extension “has been necessary for this Administration to review the many constitutional and legal questions raised by the potential release of sensitive and confidential presidential records and to decide the proper legal framework and process to employ in reviewing such records.”
Some say Bush might have some cause for worry because some of his top aides and his father, then vice president, all worked under Reagan. These aides include Secretary of State Colin Powell, Budget Director Mitchell Daniels Jr., White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and several others.
The records fall under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, a post-Watergate measure that became law after former President Richard Nixon attempted to hold onto his papers and tape recordings as personal property. This act made presidential records, starting with Reagan’s, government property.
The law keeps records containing “confidential communications requesting or submitting advice between the president and his advisors, or between such advisors” sealed for 12 years. After 12 years, the documents may no longer be kept secret.
The 12-year period for the Reagan papers expired in January. But the law requires the National Archives to notify the current president about the records. In February, the National Archives gave Bush the required 30-day notification.
© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press