Historians Urge Congress to Strengthen Presidential Records Act

On September 5, 2008, the Center for American Progress Action Fund sent a letter from thirty prominent historians to the leadership of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate urging reform of the Presidential Records Act. The American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians and the National Coalition for History also endorsed the letter.

Action in Congress on legislation (H.R 1255) to revoke President Bush’s Executive Order 13233 has been stymied by Senate Republicans. The EO 13233 granted unprecedented powers to delay the release of a president’s, and vice president’s records after they leave office. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has a hold on the bill and it is highly unlikely the legislation will come to the Senate floor before it adjourns this year. The House passed its version of the Presidential Records Reform bill by an overwhelming margin in 2007, with far more votes than needed to override a threatened veto by President Bush.

The letter to Congress points to the example of millions of missing Bush administration e-mails generated between October 2003 and March 2005 as an example of why greater oversight and penalties for non-compliance with the Presidential Records Act are needed.