Obama Reverses Bush-Era Control over Papers of Ex-Presidents

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On March 23, 2001, only five weeks after assuming the presidency, President Bush ordered the National Archives not to release to the public 68,000 pages of records from the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the documents were supposed to have been made available to the public after January 20, 2001, twelve years after Reagan left the White House. Bush also kept sealed the papers of Reagan’s vice-president, who happened to be Bush’s father. On November 1, 2001, Bush signed an executive order that went even further. This time he gave former presidents and former vice-presidents, and their families after they die, the right to continue preventing the release of their papers. Not only that, but, according to Bush’s executive order, even if an ex-president wanted to release his papers to the public, the sitting president would have the right to bar their release anyway. On his first full day as president, Barack Obama signed an executive order revoking Bush’s November  2001 order.



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