Secrecy News

NARA Seeks to Speed Processing of Presidential Records

The National Archives says it is exploring new methods to accelerate the disclosure of records at Presidential libraries.

Archivists “decided to undertake an in-house study in the spring of 2007 to review ways to achieve faster processing of Presidential records,” stated Emily Robison, acting director of the Clinton Presidential Library, in an October 2 declaration (pdf) that was filed in a lawsuit brought against NARA by Judicial Watch.

“As a result of this study, a one-year pilot project was initiated to implement the most promising proposals,” she said (at p. 15). The pilot project was first reported by Josh Gerstein in the New York Sun on October 4.

In response to a request for further information about the project, NARA released a list of procedural changes (pdf) it is using or considering to expedite processing of records. These include “cease routine referral of classified items… for classification review” and “halt printing e-mail attachments that do not easily open.”

An extensive interview with Sharon Fawcett, assistant archivist for presidential libraries, explores the role of President Clinton and Senator Clinton in the processing of records at the Clinton Library, the genesis of President Bush’s executive order on presidential records, and the procedural and resource constraints under which the Presidential records review process operates. See “Inside the Clinton Archives” by Alexis Simendinger, National Journal, December 17.

The Department of the Navy has updated its “Records Management Manual” with considerable detail on the various categories of Navy records and how they are to be handled. See SECNAV Manual 5210.1, November 2007 (473 pages, 5 MB PDF file).

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