Obama lifts Bush’’s veil of secrecy on presidential documents

January 22nd, 2009 - 2:39 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan.22 (ANI): Moving quickly to undo the Bush administration’’s regime of secrecy, President Obama on Wednesday repealed a 2001 executive order granting former presidents, and even vice presidents, the ability to keep documents secret long past the 12 years allowed by law. It was one of Obama’’s first official acts, and was hailed as a rebuke of the past eight years.
In announcing the order, Obama said it will even tie his own hands.
“Going forward, any time the American people want to know something that I or a former president wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the attorney general and the White House counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law,” the Washington Times quoted Obama, as saying.
“Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well-grounded in the Constitution,” he added. After Watergate and President Nixon’’s attempts to shield presidential records, Congress passed the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which said beginning in 1981 all records produced by a president or vice president belonged to the public and must be archived. The law provided for their release 12 years after an administration ended.
But with historians hoping in 2001 to finally gain a peek at Reagan administration documents, Bush changed the rules with Executive Order 13233, which gave former presidents, relatives of deceased former presidents and even former vice presidents a veto over the release of information. Former presidents can still exert privilege, but the new order returns the final say to the Archivist of the United States, in consultation with the current president.
An attempt to reach Bush’’s office was not successful. (ANI)

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