On July 30, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced that it had reached a non-exclusive agreement with CustomFlix Labs, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc., to make thousands of historic films from the Archives’ holdings available for purchase on Amazon.com. CustomFlix DVD on Demand service will initially make the National Archives’ collection of Universal Newsreels, dating from 1920 to 1967, available on DVD. A limited number of titles are already available on Amazon.com.
Last April, the Senate Judiciary Committee cleared a Freedom of Information reform bill (S. 849) (S. Rept. 110-59) by voice vote. The bill is similar to legislation (H.R. 1309) overwhelmingly passed by the House earlier this year by a vote of 308-117, with the bi-partisan support of 80 Republicans.
Unfortunately, since the bill passed the Judiciary Committee floor consideration has been stymied by a “hold” placed on the bill by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) at the behest of the Bush administration. An attempt was recently made by the Democratic majority to bring the bill to the floor, which was opposed by the Republican leadership. The National Coalition for History strongly supports FOIA reform legislation and we are urging readers to contact the Senate and voice your support for bringing S. 849 to the floor.
As part of a conference report to a bill (H.R. 1) to implement the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, Congress has included a provision that will require public disclosure of the total national intelligence budget. On July 27, the Senate approved the conference report to H.R. 1, by a vote of 85-8. The next day, the House approved the conference report by a vote of 371-40.
On July 19, 2007, the House of Represenatives passed the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education fiscal year (FY) 2008 budget bill (H.R. 3043) (H. Rept. 110-231, page 236), by a vote of 276-140.
The bill includes $119.79 million for the Teaching American History grants program at the U.S. Department of Education, the same amount provided in FY ’07.
The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) at the National Archives this week issued its 2006 Annual Report detailing the status of declassification programs in the federal government and industry.
The major challenge facing ISOO last year was the December 31, 2006, deadline imposed by Executive Order 12958, as amended requiring mandatory declassification of federal records 25 years old or older. During fiscal year 2006, the Executive Branch branch declassified 37.6 million pages of records, and since 1996 approximately 460 million declassified pages have been made publicly accessible. However, the National Archives still holds another 400 million pages of declassified federal record that require additional processing before they can be made available.
By a vote of 15-14, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted on July 12, to strip language from the Financial Services and General Government fiscal year (FY) 2008 appropriations bill that would have withheld funding for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) until it complied with Executive Order (EO) 12958, as amended.
The EO mandates that executive branch departments, agencies, commissions, and “any other entity within the executive branch,” report to the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) at the National Archives on their procedures for handling and safeguarding classified materials.
On July 12, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year 2008 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill. The bill includes $313.9 million for operating expenses of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This funding level is $1.1 million above the President’s request, $1.1 million less than the House recently approved in its bill (H.R. 2829) (S. Rept. 110-129), and $34.6 million above fiscal year 2007 budget.
On July 12, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the fiscal year ’08 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill (H.R. 2829) (S. Rept. 110-129). The bill included $10 million for the NHPRC, the same amount passed by the House. Unlike the House, the Senate Committee Report language does not direct how the funding should be allocated between grants and administrative costs. The House bill allocated $8 million for grants and $2 million for administrative costs.
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced the award of $116 million for 122 new grants to improve the quality of American history education. The grants are being awarded to school districts in 40 states nationwide.
On July 11, 2007, the legal transfer of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace from the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) took place.
Concurrently with the transfer, the new Nixon Library opened approximately 78,000 pages of previously withheld materials.