SECRECY has been perhaps the most consistent trait of the George W. Bush presidency. Whether it involves refusing to provide the names of oil executives
who advised Vice President Dick Cheney on energy policy, prohibiting photographs
of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq, or forbidding the release of files
pertaining to Chief Justice John Roberts's tenure in the Justice Department,
President Bush seems determined to control what the public is permitted to know.
And he has been spectacularly effective, making Richard Nixon look almost
But perhaps the most egregious example occurred on Nov. 1, 2001, when President Bush signed Executive Order 13233, under which a former president's private papers can be released only with the approval of both that former president (or his heirs) and the current one.
Before that executive order, the National Archives had controlled the release of documents under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which stipulated that all papers, except those pertaining to national security, had to be made available 12 years after a president left office.
Now, however, Mr. Bush can prevent the public from knowing not only what he did in office, but what Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan did in the name of democracy. (Although Mr. Reagan's term ended more than 12 years before the executive order, the Bush administration had filed paperwork in early 2001 to stop the clock, and thus his papers fall under it.)
Bill Clinton publicly objected to the executive order, saying he wanted all his papers open. Yet the Bush administration has nonetheless denied access to documents surrounding the 177 pardons President Clinton granted in the last days of his presidency. Coming without explanation, this action raised questions and fueled conspiracy theories: Is there something to hide? Is there more to know about the controversial pardon of the fugitive financier Marc Rich? Is there a quid pro quo between Bill Clinton and the Bushes? Is the current president laying a secrecy precedent for pardons he intends to grant?
Monday, October 10, 2005
Spurious Mr. Bush
NYTimes points out another spurious component of the W, Rove and Co's arsenal. Unfortunately, this is not the groundwork for trusting this and any future president. Voila - Executive Order 13233: