SAA Letter to Editors: Ripped-Up Government Records and the Critical Role of the National Archives

February 4, 2022—Responding to recent media reports, SAA President Courtney Chartier with the assistance of the Committee on Public Policy yesterday sent the following letter to the editors of the Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, The Hill, and Chicago Tribune:

Ripped-Up Government Records and the Critical Role of the National Archives

Recent media reports about former-president Trump’s regular practice of tearing up documents required to be preserved under the federal Presidential Records Act should be of concern to all Americans. Government records laws exist to ensure that our public servants are accountable to the people they serve. The White House Office of Records Management deserves great credit for ensuring that these documents were retained regardless of their condition, as well as the National Archives for helping to make them usable for accountability and transparency.  

These reports underscore the importance of maintaining the funding and independence of the National Archives. Additionally, the current Archivist of the United States will retire spring 2022 and the next Archivist will continue to play a critical role in ensuring that essential evidence of our democracy is both preserved and made accessible according to federal law. Given the issues at stake, it is critical that the Biden administration select an appointee who is highly skilled and well versed in the nature and management of federal government records—and particularly presidential records. On behalf of the Society of American Archivists, we urge that this issue be given the critical attention it merits on behalf of the American people.