Friday, June 22, 2007

The Perils of Nanny Dick: An Update on the Bush Administration Archive

According to the New York Times, Dick Cheney's office has consistently resisted any oversight of how his office handles classified materials: you can read about it here. That oversight normally comes from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), an agency that was established because of the advocacy of the American Historical Association in the last century. But here's the beautiful part: when the NARA office that deals with the preservation of classified records persisted in its attempt to do its job under the 1978 Presidential Records Act, Cheney shifted tactics from simple obstruction and tried to get the office itself abolished.

These. Bush. People. Are. So. Awful. And the mystery is -- why didn't they think they would ever get caught at this? Or did they think they might get caught, but they would have so effectively gutted the justice system by that time that none of their lying, filthy deeds would be prosecuted? And I have to tell you, it is one thing to go after prosecutors, but going after archivists is low. Not even Richard Nixon went after archivists.

History News Network has a post up that is a summary of today's New York Times article: you can see it here. But once again, I wonder why -- along with Gayprof, in a comment on a previous post -- the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians has been sitting on their collective hands? True, in March, the AHA urged all of us to write our congresspeople to support a bill reversing Executive Order 13233, W.'s original move against the historians. But I see nothing on the AHA's advocacy page about the hearings currently being held by Henry Waxman (D-California); to look at the scope of the Waxman investigation and why it should concern us as scholars and citizens, you need only go to the webpage of the Committee on Governmental Oversight. And I have received nothing from either of these professional organizations to which I pay hefty annual memberships (OK, because of size I am not counting the Southern and the Berkshire Conference, and I am letting the Historical Society, to which I do not belong, off the hook too) alerting me to the issues at hand and what we, as historians, might do to be heard in this matter. And, as Gayprof pointed out in a comment on a previous post, why are we six years into this Administration and this has not been a major professional organizing issue for American historians and our colleagues in other fields?

What gives? Make a difference here, bloggers. To write Representative Henry Waxman, either to express your personal concern or to bring in expert testimony from historians, go to this link. To contact Arnita Jones, Executive Director of the American Historical Association, click here (don't worry: this is not her personal email.)


anthony grafton said...

You're absolutely right, I'm on it.



GayProf said...

I would have thought that there would be more outrage...

Susan said...

There was steam coming out my ears while I read the story... the part I really liked was that Cheney's excuse is that he's exempt from the regulation because his office is not part of the executive branch because he presides over the Senate. As I recall, he claimed executive privilege to hide his contacts with corporate lobbyists on the Energy TF.

I think this is really the role of the Research Division of the AHA, so Teo Ruiz will be hearing from me. (Though if Tony Grafton can figure out how the professional division comes into it, that's cool too.

anthony grafton said...

In fact, the AHA and OAH have been pursuing these issues, as I should have said before, via the National History Coalition, of which they are the major supporters. You can find a number of pertinent entries on the History Coalition website ( In other words, your dues are in fact being used to oppose these policies.