March 20, 2002
Representative Stephen Horn
Chairman, Subcommittee on Government Efficiency
2154 Rayburn Office Building
Via facsimile transmission: 202-225-2373
Dear Representative Horn,
You will recall that I wrote you last November 6, expressing the grave concern of the Society of American Archivists over Executive Order 13233. Since that time, we have taken a number of actions towards educating the public and the White House over the dangerous implications of this order. These have included participating in a meeting of historians, journalists, public policy scholars, and archivists with White House staff; publishing an op-ed article in the Sunday Outlook Section of the Washington Post (12/16/2001); participating in a number of press, television, and radio interviews on the subject; and putting out a general call to action to our members. Throughout this time, we have consistently maintained the view that the proper remedy to this order ought to be legislative. This is one of the reasons we are not currently a party to the Public Citizen lawsuit over the order.
Thus, it is particularly gratifying to hear of your "Dear Colleague" letter to your fellow members of the House of Representatives seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would nullify this Executive Order. Since November, we have conducted further research on the implications of this order and we believe that your proposed bill takes exactly the right approach in appropriately addressing the national security and executive privilege concerns that putatively provoked the Executive Order (notwithstanding the fact that these issues were thoroughly and adequately addressed in the 1978 legislation), providing a reasonable and workable timetable for the Archivist to deal with privilege claims, and, most important, dismissing the outlandish notion of delegation of privilege to family or other representatives.
I speak on behalf of the Council of the Society of American Archivists and its 3600 members when I say that we thoroughly support your efforts to reestablish sound archival principles, the rights of the people, and the rule of law in effectively managing and preserving the documentary record of the Presidency. As I noted in my article in the Washington Post, President Bush must ultimately understand that the "president's papers are not in fact the President's papers, but rather the records of the people's presidency."
We will be urging our membership to contact their individual members of Congress to marshal full and emphatic support for this proposed legislation. If there is anything further that I can do, such as provide you with more background information on the archival issues or even testify on behalf of the legislation, please let me know.
Steven L. Hensen
President, Society of American Archivists