Clinical alterations to a law giving the public the right to access official files in effect protects the country’s administrations, past and present, from the public eye. President George Bush has approved an order which makes it more difficult to get access to the documents relating to the activity of ex-presidents. Under the US Constitution, by the 1978 Presidential Registry Act, these documents belong to the US citizens but the alterations approved by George Bush will enable officials to stall and impede revelation of sensitive material.
The Presidential Registry Act was brought in after Watergate, to make the US Presidency appear more transparent. The original idea was that documents related to the presidency would be accessible to the public 5 years after the president left office, and the more sensitive documents, 12 years after.
The 68,000 documents of the Reagan Administration (Ronald Reagan was President for eight years between 1984 and 1992, George Bush Senior was his Vice President) were due to become public in January, 2002. However, the White House had previously declared that it needed more time to handle the growing number of requests to view the documents and the order signed by George Bush makes it extremely difficult to gain access to them.
Under the new order, either the President to whose term in office the documents refer, or the serving President, have the right to revise the documents before they are made public. There is no time limit for this revision period and the party who requested access to the documents will have to take the case to court if he wants the process to move faster.
The White House claims that this “simple complements na organised process”, according to Alberto Gonzales, advisor to the White House who prepared the order signed by George Bush. Critics declare that this order was made to save George Bush Senior from embarrassing revelations.
Either way, those who suffer will be historians and researchers who will in this way be deprived of material which does not pose a threat to national security.
The US Congress has the right to propose a law to overturn the order.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru
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