This week, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memorandum instituting new Department of Justice policies and procedures making it more difficult for the government to assert the state secrets privilege in litigation. The state secrets privilege allows the executive branch to block discovery in civil litigation when the government believes that there is an unacceptable risk of disclosure of sensitive national security information.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is seeking public comment on a proposed rule that will require researchers using original records, NARA microfilm, and public use computers at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, to obtain a researcher identification card.
This week, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Jonathan Jarvis to be director of the National Park Service. Jarvis, a 30-year veteran of the National Park Service, has served since 2002 as regional director of the agency’s Pacific West Region.
This week, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) unveiled a new Funded Projects Query Form that allows visitors to search online for information on all projects funded by NEH since 1980. The form is accessible from the NEH homepage or directly at https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx.
The 2009 Secrecy Report Card chronicles slight decreases in secrecy across a wide spectrum of indicators in the last year of the Bush-Cheney Administration. The report, released by a coalition of more than 70 open government advocates, also provides a six-month overview of the Obama Administration’s promise and practice on openness issues, and a section on financial transparency during the economic crisis.
Acting Archivist of the United States Adrienne Thomas this week announced the appointment of Presidential historian Mark K. Updegrove as the new director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. His appointment is effective October 11, 2009.
During floor consideration of the fiscal year 2010 Transportation Appropriations bill (HR 3288) an amendment offered by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) which would have prohibited any funding in the bill for museums was defeated by a vote of 41-57.
On September 3, the Obama administration and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) settled four ongoing cases regarding public access to White House visitor records. As a result, for the first time in history records of White House visitors will be released.
On August 25, the Orange County, Virginia Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to grant a special permit to Walmart to build a 138,000 sq. ft.“Supercenter” store ¼ mile from the Wilderness Civil War Battlefield. For nearly a year historians and preservationists had opposed granting Walmart permission to build within the historic boundaries of the battlefield.
As Congress returns from its summer recess in September it will have less than a month to pass 12 appropriations bills prior to the start of fiscal year 2010 on October 1. Despite the generally tight budget parameters for discretionary non-defense programs this year, federal programs of interest to the historical and archival communities would fare well under the FY 2010 budgets passed by the House and pending in the Senate.