Protect Access to the National Archives: Our National Memory Bank

Here's the sort of under-the-radar item that never gets the attention it deserves: who will control access to politically sensitive material in the National Archives. I missed the original item praising the Nixon tapes as a valuable history lesson, and only saw the darker follow-up letter, The Nixon Tapes. The letter (latter?) is more important:

But who protects archivists?

In 1986, the Justice Department tried to force the Archives to accept without discretion Mr. Nixon's claims against release of records. A court threw out the directive.

In 1987, Mr. Nixon blocked the opening of 42,000 documents deemed releaseable by archivists. Mr. Taylor later claimed that the blocked items represented information “routinely” withheld at presidential libraries. The Archives sat on the documents for nine years before upholding most of its archivists' decisions on disclosure.

The belated release showed that Mr. Nixon wanted information about Vietnam (“tell Henry [Kissinger] get best deal — let Thieu paddle his own canoe”) and Watergate (“put it on Mitchell”) withdrawn as “personal.” Who will prevail in future battles, Mr. Nixon's advocates or archivists?

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