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CREW: House Oversight Committee: Supporting the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2011

CREW: House Oversight Committee: Supporting the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2011

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Published by CREW
On November 2, 2011, Today CREW and 31 other organizations and entities sent a letter to Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) of the House Oversight Committee in support of the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2011, H.R. 3071.

The bill provides a framework for the assertion of privilege by a former president over his presidential records and clarifies the rights and obligations of the incumbent president and the Archivist of the United States in dealing with such claims. Without this legislation, the treatment of executive privilege claims by former presidents has been governed by executive orders that change with each incoming president.

Some of those executive orders, like that issued by President George W. Bush, enabled former presidents to put indefinite holds on the public release of their records simply through a claim of executive privilege. Under the proposed legislation, the current president would have the final say on whether or not to assert such a claim, and the archivist would be required to release the record if so directed by the incumbent president, absent a court order to the contrary.
On November 2, 2011, Today CREW and 31 other organizations and entities sent a letter to Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) of the House Oversight Committee in support of the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2011, H.R. 3071.

The bill provides a framework for the assertion of privilege by a former president over his presidential records and clarifies the rights and obligations of the incumbent president and the Archivist of the United States in dealing with such claims. Without this legislation, the treatment of executive privilege claims by former presidents has been governed by executive orders that change with each incoming president.

Some of those executive orders, like that issued by President George W. Bush, enabled former presidents to put indefinite holds on the public release of their records simply through a claim of executive privilege. Under the proposed legislation, the current president would have the final say on whether or not to assert such a claim, and the archivist would be required to release the record if so directed by the incumbent president, absent a court order to the contrary.

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Categories:Types, Letters
Published by: CREW on Nov 02, 2011
Copyright:Public Domain

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 November 2, 2011Chairman Darrell E. IssaRanking Member Elijah E. CummingsHouse Committee on Oversight and Government ReformU.S. House of Representatives2157 Rayburn House Office BuildingWashington, D.C. 20515
BY FAX 202-225-3974 and 202-225-9852
 Dear Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Cummings:As groups dedicated to greater accountability and transparency in government, we write insupport of the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2011, H.R. 3071. This bill provides aframework for the assertion of privilege by a former president and clarifies the rights andobligations of the incumbent president and the Archivist of the United States in dealing withsuch claims.Specifically, the bill imposes a time limit in which a former president must assert any claim of privilege upon a determination of the Archivist to make available to the public a record of thatformer president. The bill also establishes processes for managing the disclosure of records uponthe assertion of privilege by a former president, and grants to the incumbent president the powerto decide whether or not to uphold any privilege claim of a former president. Further, thedecision of the incumbent president to release a document over a claim of privilege by a formerpresident controls, absent a court order to the contrary.In the absence of legislation like H.R. 3071, the process for dealing with claims of privilege by aformer president has been left to the discretion of each incoming president through the issuanceof executive orders. Those orders have varied widely, and have had an impact on the public’saccess to presidential records. For example, President George W. Bush issued an executiveorder that permitted a former president to block the publication of any of his presidential recordsby the mere assertion of a privilege claim. By contrast, the executive order issued by PresidentObama gives to the incumbent president the final call on whether or not a claim of privilege willbe asserted.This legislation will ensure an orderly process for dealing with claims of privilege over therecords of former presidents that affords the greatest degree of public access. The importance of presidential records cannot be overstated; they offer a unique window into our nation’s historyand allow us to learn from our past mistakes. We therefore strongly support passage of H.R.3071.Finally, we note some have criticized the bill on the ground it creates a new, constitutionally-based privilege that former presidents may assert over the records of their presidency. We do not

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