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As a future information professional, I am disappointed, though not particularly surprised, that with all the talk on here over the last two months about questionable Bush appointees, the appointment of Allan Weinstein as Archivist of the United States has largely gone unmentioned. The position of U.S. Archivist may not be as glamorous as that of Attorney General or Secretary of State, but it is quite important nonetheless, as the man or woman in the position, as the head of the National Archives and Records Administration, regulates the flow of information about government activities and motivations to the public. The position is supposed to be apolitical, which is why the circumstances surrounding Weinstein's appointment are a source of much consternation to professional archivists, and should be to you as well.

Those of you in the Washington area may have noticed the editorial in the Post on February 7 briefly discussing the issues surrounding Dr. Weinstein's appointment. For those of you who did not, I have excerpted the relevant portions below:

 You could be forgiven for thinking that the archivist job is about ensuring that fading documents behind thick glass are adequately protected from the elements. As important as that is, the position involves far more. The archivist oversees and -- in the best of worlds, facilitates, promotes and prods -- the release of far less musty government documents, material essential to understanding modern American history....
recognition of the sensitive role of the archivist, Congress created an independent agency, the National Archives and Records Administration; gave the archivist an unlimited term in office; and required that a president, to replace an archivist, must explain why. No such explanation has been offered by the Bush administration. It approached Mr. Weinstein about the job in September 2003, and a few months later pushed the current archivist, John W. Carlin, to resign, without providing any reason either to Congress or Mr. Carlin, a former Kansas governor named to the post by President Bill Clinton in 1995.

This is a good start in explaining the problem. It does not, however, note that besides the opinions of the Post Editorial Board the Society of American Archivists also has some serious reservations with the appointment. In a statement drawn up in July 2004, the board of the SAA expressed these reservations:

However, we also wish to convey again the strong reservations that the Society of American Archivists and thirty other archives, history, and library organizations have expressed about the manner in which this nomination was made. As noted in a Statement developed by SAA, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators (issued shortly after the April 8, 2004, announcement of Professor Weinstein's nomination), Congress created the National Archives and Records Administration--and the position of Archivist of the United States--to be both independent and non-partisan. In the National Archives Act (Public Law 98-497), Congress intended that filling the position of Archivist of the United States should involve an open process, with consultation with appropriate professional organizations that could speak from knowledge and experience concerning the qualifications of nominees. Attached are copies of the "Statement on the Nomination of Allen Weinstein to Become Archivist of the United States"(including the names of the organizations that supported it), as well as "Joint Statement on Selection Criteria for the Archivist of the United States" and "Joint Statement on Questions to Ask the Nominee for Archivist of the United States." We ask that these documents be entered into the permanent record of these hearings.

It is our view that this nomination was undertaken outside both the letter and the spirit of the law. We believe that the evidence is clear that the White House effectively removed John Carlin when it asked him for a letter of resignation in December 2003 after having already identified a replacement in the fall of that year. It is within the power of the President to remove the Archivist, but if he takes this action, the law calls for him to provide Congress with an explanation of his reasons for doing so. To date, no such explanation has been provided. We hope that the Committee will ask the White House to fulfill its obligation under the law rather than create another precedent that erodes the power and authority of the United States Congress. [emphasis theirs]

As the SAA noted in their Joint Statement on Selection Criteria a month later:

This is the first time since the National Archives and Records Administration was established as an independent agency in 1985 that the process of nominating an Archivist of the United States has not been open for public discussion and input. We believe that Professor Weinstein must--through appropriate and public discussions and hearings--demonstrate his ability to meet the criteria that will qualify him to serve as Archivist of the United States.

To be fair to Dr. Weinstein, the discussion that the SAA called for did, in fact, take place, albeit largely in a private, informal, setting. However, almost a year after Dr. Weinstein's initial nomination as Archivist of the U.S., the president has still not given any indication of why Dr. Weinstein's predecessor, John Carlin, was asked to resign, nor of how or why Dr. Weinstein was chosen from the hundreds of archivists or historians who would have potentially been qualified for the position.

In the end, SAA ended up neither endorsing nor opposing Dr. Weinstein's appointment, likely out of a pragmatic realization that he would be confirmed and that the country's largest professional archivist association would need to have a good working relationship with the nominal head of governmental archives activity. However, the seemingly arbitrary process that led to Gov. Carlin's dismissal and Dr. Weinstein's nomination casts doubt on the continued political independence of NARA and its associated agencies.

Carlin was dismissed right before Bush 41's papers were to become available to the public under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act; this seems unlikely to be a coincidence. As someone working in a number of archives, I know from experience that it is VERY easy for an archivist to drag his/her feet on making a collection accessible; especially for a collection as massive as the files of a President's Office, the archivist really has to want to release the files to get them out on time. Bush 43, as evidenced by his executive order earlier in his term extending restrictions on presidential papers, does not want this; in light of what appears to be an obviously political appointment, it will remain to be seen whether Dr. Weinstein will want it, or will be able to want it.

I'd like to give Dr. Weinstein the benefit of the doubt, but this kind of activity sets a dangerous precedent. If this really was a nakedly political appointment, it means that the administration has a man on the "inside" who will dictate what records can and cannot see the light of day. In light of all of the, I'll be generous and say "exaggerations", that this administration is demonstratably guilty of, it's just a few steps from keeping old presidential records under wraps to deciding, say, that fairly-current state-department bulletins are not worth releasing to the public. The Archivist of the U.S. does not have term limits; as such, a politically-tinged person in that position potentially undermines the usefulness of FOIA in particular and NARA in general.

I'm going to be keeping an eye out for Archives-related and government information-related shenanigans over the next four year. For the sake of the freedom of information in this country, I would advise anyone reading this to do the same.

Originally posted to Herodotusjr on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 05:58 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent diary (4.00)
    on a very important topic, as you say.  Highly recommended.  I hope that many others will see it here.  Certainly Dems in Washington should be looking into the matter, at least to bring pressure on Weinstein to keep the Archives non-partisan.

    You're almost certainly right that Bush 2nd wanted to protect Bush 1st, perhaps concerning Iran Contra (vel sim.).  I remember reading a full discussion of this issue somewhere about a year ago--and being outraged then by the crass partisanship of the operation.  It may have been at another site, though--perhaps  Historians, incidentally, are pretty angry over this appointment as well.

    •  Convenient that the "Dr." (4.00)
      has heavy McCarthyist leanings and may be a hard-core history fabricator (basically, he makes a damn good Republican). Follow the link above and check the title of one of his books:

      The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America-The Stalin Era, 1999

      Here's a critical review written by John Lowenthal, reprinted in full:

      A Critical View of "The Haunted Wood"

      The thesis of this book is that KGB documents prove many New Deal and other US government officials were spies for the Soviet Union. The documentation in the book, however, does not support the thesis, in my opinion.

      The co-authors state that one of them, a former KGB agent named Alexander Vassiliev, saw the KGB documents in Moscow on an exclusive basis, in exchange for payments by the publisher, Random House, to an association of former KGB agents. There is no way to verify the authenticity of the KGB documents; no way to check the accuracy of the excerpts and paraphrases printed in the book; no way to study their context, such as the rest of the file from which a particular document came, which every historian and student knows can be crucial to a correct reading and interpretation. We do not even know whether the documents Vassiliev saw are in the Russian language and, if they are, who translated them and how accurately.

      The book contains 1099 numbered footnotes, of which 1049 are citations to those off-limits KGB documents. Readers may well ask why those footnotes are there at all. Another frustrating puzzle for readers is the way the co-authors purport to quote KGB documents that contain code names (which the Soviet intelligence agencies routinely assigned to spies and occasionally to non-spies such as Roosevelt, Truman, Churchill, and lesser figures): the co-authors delete the code names and replace them with real names in square brackets -- but often without disclosing what code names they have deleted, and without citing any KGB document or otherwise explaining how or where they got the real names. Compounding the confusion, they state that the Soviets sometimes assigned the same code name to more than one person and sometimes assigned two or three code names to the same person. For instance, the co-authors assert that the American diplomat Alger Hiss had two code names, "Ales" and "Lawyer", while the US Treasury official Harry Dexter White had three code names, "Lawyer", "Richard", and "Reed".

      In The Haunted Wood, the co-authors do not explain why they cite no authority or source for ascribing "Lawyer" as a code name for Hiss. For their assertion that "Ales" was another code name for Hiss, they do not cite any KGB documentary source, but they reproduce (and misquote) a so-called "Venona" document, released in 1996 by the US National Security Agency and said to bear a translation of a partially decrypted 1945 KGB cablegram about "Ales". In 1950, an FBI agent tentatively identified Ales as Hiss and said the FBI would attempt to verify the identification; but it never did so, nor could it have done so.

      The Venona-KGB cablegram itself, reproduced with the photographs in the book, shows that Ales could not have been Hiss. Ales was a military intelligence (GRU) agent who obtained only military information. Hiss, however, was charged with obtaining only non-military State Department materials; the papers that were used to convict him were copies of State Department documents. Ales was the leader of a group of GRU agents, whereas Hiss was accused of acting alone (except for his wife and his accuser, Whittaker Chambers). Ales conducted espionage throughout the eleven years 1935-45, whereas Hiss was accused of having conducted espionage not later than 1938, etc. etc. But The Haunted Wood does not mention, let alone attempt to explain away, any of those discrepancies that preclude Ales as having been Hiss.

      Furthermore, there is an earlier Venona document that tends to exonerate Hiss, but I can not find any mention of it in the book. It contains a fragment of a GRU message that, in the original, included the name "Hiss" spelled out in the Latin alphabet, rather than the Cyrillic. For the GRU to use the Latin alphabet just for the name strongly suggests that the GRU had never before heard of Hiss and wanted to be sure to get the name right. (No first name is given, so we can not tell whether "Hiss" was Alger or his brother Donald, who was also in the State Department.) Moreover, for the GRU to use Hiss's real name suggests that he had no code name and was not an espionage agent, because Soviet intelligence agencies, for reasons of security, normally assigned code names to their agents and referred to them only by their code names. Given the many pages that The Haunted Wood devotes to Hiss, Ales, the GRU, and Venona, it is a serious lapse, in my view, for the co-authors not to tell their readers about this GRU message and not to discuss its implications.

      The lack of verifiable documentation in The Haunted Wood, its plethora of errors, and its strategic omissions leave it demonstrably untrustworthy. In my opinion, the book falls too far below minimal standards of scholarly or journalistic rigor for any serious consideration.

      •  What is the reference for that review? (none)
        Hey Kosmologist, if you are going to refer to a review can we have the academic citation please in case we need to find the full text ourselves? Thanks
        •  Wish I could! (none)
          I received the review as a text attachment to an email from a colleague. I can, however, tell you a little about the author: he has been a law professor at Rutgers and a film director. Maybe a Google search might turn some stuff up? I saw a bunch of websites discussing his film, but not this review.
      •  Many harsh reviews (none)
        of Weinstein's work have appeared.  He is, I gather, not much admired by fellow historians in his field, and as this review suggests, he appears to be willing to work within a highly secretive system.  Even if his use of secret documents is beyond reproach, and could not be bettered in any way by others IF they had access to his putative sources, historical (or archival) work has to be verifiable by others.  Those are the rules of the profession.  So what does that portend for his reign at the National Archives?
  •  Here's some more data for you, (4.00)
    seems to me I posted some data regarding this prior to the Gonzales nomination, because he was involved in this matter.

    Senator Levin then introduced a bombshell document into the hearing record--a letter from current Archivist Carlin that was prepared in response to a number of questions posed to him by Levin regarding whether he [Carlin] approached the Administration about resigning as archivist, or whether it was the Administration that had initially had approached him. It is worth noting in this context that the National Coalition for History and several of its member organizations had repeatedly called on the committee to get to the bottom of the issue relating to the Carlin controversy. In Carlin's response (dated July 21, 2004) a copy of which has been obtained by the History Coalition, the archivist stated: "In answer to the first question, the Administration initially approached me. On Friday, December 5, 2003, the Counsel to the President [Alberto Gonzales] called me and told me the Administration would like to appoint a new Archivist. I asked why and there was no reason given."

    Carlin then stated in the letter that he wants to continue as archivist at least four more months as "there are initiatives I would like to complete before concluding my service as Archivist" . . . specifically the campaign to raise $22 million to fund the Public Vaults permanent exhibit that will open in November 2004 and since "we are on the verge of awarding a contract for the design of the Electronic Records Archives . . . I would like to see that budget request through to fruition over the next four months."

    Levin and Durbin expressed concern that, contrary to provisions of the Archives Independence Act, the White House was requesting Carlin's resignation without stating a reason as required in the law. Following a cordial but doggedly persistent pursuit of his objective, Levin requested that the committee send a letter to the White House requesting an explanation of why Carlin was being asked to resign as these actions endanger "the independence of the Archivist's office." If the committee declined to do so, Levin would do so independently, he declared.

    Regardless of Weinstein's generally positive hearing, troubling questions posed by Senators Levin and Durbin about the politicization of the nomination by the White House--when combined with Archivist Carlin's request to be permitted to stay in office until at least through November--cast doubts about the continued viability of the nomination. Whereas Weinstein's chances of Senate confirmation had appeared to be very good prior to the hearing, they are now dependent on the resolution of several issues unrelated to the nominee's personal qualifications. Depending on how or whether the White House responds to the request for clarification of why Archivist Carlin is being removed from office, and how the committee and/or its individual members decide to respond to Carlin's clearly stated request to remain in office for several more months, as well as on how the committee decides to deal with what appears to be a clear violation of intent of the Archives independence law, Weinstein's confirmation may well be delayed until after the November elections. Then, of course, depending on the result of the November election, the nomination may well prove to be moot.

    I'm glad you found it worrisome also.

    What an excellent day for an Exorcism.... Social Security THERE IS NO CRISIS!

    by DianeL on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 06:11:08 PM PST

    •  Interesting... (4.00)
      we are on the verge of awarding a contract for the design of the Electronic Records Archives

      That passage kind of jumped out at me. Sounds like the White House wants a larger say in what goes into the new electronic archives, hmm? Maybe a kill switch so Karl Rove can purge troubling information about King George? Or maybe just another pork contract for one of their bigger campaign backers? Maybe Carlin was leaning towards an open-source solution, and Microsoft decided they didn't like the precident?

      It's like the media listened to Weird Al's "Dare to be Stupid" and said "Yes! This is how the world should be!"

      by RHunter on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 06:21:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wonder if that contract isn't going to Diebold (4.00)
        who also, amazingly enough, provide the security for the National Archives (I also posted that on numerous Voting issue Diaries etc., to no interest):  Diebold, Incorporated is now safeguarding the foundation of America's history, the Charters of Freedom: the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, in three customized high-tech vaults installed at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. The recently renovated rotunda and re-encasement of the Charter documents is being unveiled to the public on Thursday, September 18, 2003 at 10 a.m.....

        What an excellent day for an Exorcism.... Social Security THERE IS NO CRISIS!

        by DianeL on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 06:32:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Diebold reality check (none)
          Implying that every service or product offered by Diebold is suspect, simply because their voting systems division is problematic, is a bit disingenuous.  That's like saying that GE light bulbs are dangerous because they're also in the nuclear power business.

          I can pretty much guarantee that every DKos reader with an ATM card has had a positive experience with a Diebold product in the last year -- they're the leading maker of ATM stations in North America.

          Just so we're clear: I'm deeply suspicious of anything and everything related to Diebold's voting systems.  I just don't think it's fair to use that as a jumping-off point to imply that the company as a whole is untrustworthy or incompetent.


          I'm a pro-gun, pro-nuclear-power Reform Democrat.
          Anybody got a problem with that?

          by AlphaGeek on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 07:57:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The patronizing tone isn't (none)
            appreciated.  Did I say anything about ATM machines AlphaGeek?  Did I say anything about other products or services Diebold manufatures/provides? I'm well aware that they manufacture ATM machines.  Don't put words in my mouth.

            Their connections with George Bush have been questionable at best,  and when it comes to guarding the Constitution and other original manuscripts, particularly given the actions Bush has taken regarding OUR National Archives, I know I'm not the only one who would have a problem with Diebold providing the security for OUR National Archives.

            Again, your tone is real condascending and off-putting.  Being a "Geek" (and an "Alpha" one at that) doesn't give you a license to talk down to people.

            What an excellent day for an Exorcism.... Social Security THERE IS NO CRISIS!

            by DianeL on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 08:30:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Wasn't being patronizing (4.00)
              And I'm not trying to start a fight.  Please re-read my post; the mention of ATM machines was mine, and I didn't even vaguely imply that you said anything about them.

              It seemed clear to me (althought I could be mistaken) that you were inferring that the well-deserved negative publicity Diebold has received over their voting systems division meant that other, unrelated parts of the company were not trustworthy.  My analogy-based approach was an effort to avoid sounding like a Diebold apologist.

              I suppose I'll put the questions to you directly, even if it makes me sound like I give a crap about Diebold:

              What is your basis for implying that the division of Diebold responsible for the type of security contracting mentioned above is unfit to safeguard United States documents?

              Does this division, or the company as a whole, have any political or financial interest in failing to safeguard the Constitution and other original documents?

              Was your original statement, in whole or in part, influenced by your perceptions of Diebold's voting systems division discussed ad nauseam here at DailyKos for the last year?


              I'm a pro-gun, pro-nuclear-power Reform Democrat.
              Anybody got a problem with that?

              by AlphaGeek on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 09:01:40 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Alpha Geek (none)
                Other than to repeat that the only Diebold connections I referred to, were with OUR National Archives, I don't find the need to go on the tangent you're requesting and be grilled by you, versus reading what interest me in this Diary.  

                I believe my comment stands on it's own with anyone privy to the knowledge of the non-arms length relationship with Bush, and questionable integrity connected with the top management of DIebold.

                Have a Good Evening.

                What an excellent day for an Exorcism.... Social Security THERE IS NO CRISIS!

                by DianeL on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 09:49:04 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  ERA Contract (4.00)
          Diebold isn't involved in the ERA contract.  NARA awarded one-year contracts to two companies - Lockheed, and Harris, to developed proposals for creating the Electronic Records Archives.
          ERA Press Release

          I can tell you from personal experience that while the head of the Archives may be a Bush appointee, the vast majority of NARA staff are just hard working government servants doing their best to serve the American public and preserve our heritage.

      •  Close the records. It's safer for them. (none)
        This is sort of along the lines of the Librarian of Congress stating that he has little or no interest in digitizing books and other documents and making them available in searchable databases or on the Web.

        There is a current climate of hostility to electronic records in Washington, and I'm not surprised to see it perpetuated by this Administration.

    •  Some related data on the (4.00)
      larger issue of Executive Order 13233 11/01/01,
      I posted this data numerous times on some of the Gonzales Diaries that were posted prior to the nomination, but no one appeared interested:

      Bush, GOnzales, and Ashcroft via Executive order, sealed the presidential records on 11/01/01, from Bush Sr. on (one month, 19 days after 9/11), Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, then chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, is quoted as saying:

      "President Bush is doing a great job on the economy and the war against terrorism....But White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, or somebody else, is giving the president pretty bad advice on withholding presidential records."

      What an excellent day for an Exorcism.... Social Security THERE IS NO CRISIS!

      by DianeL on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 06:24:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Precedent in Texas (4.00)
    In one of the books I read last summer, there was a discussion of Bush playing games with his records as governor of Texas.  

    I believe this comes from the John Dean book, Worse than Watergate.  As I recall, the book recounted how Bush had all his documents shrink-wrapped and shipped to his father's Presidential Library.  This was in violation of Texas law that requires the governor's records be turned over to the Texas state library at the end of the term.  The book indicated that, despite ongoing efforts, the librarian of Texas has been unsuccessful in retrieving the documents from his father's library.

    I think Dean used this as an example of how secretive this man is and what little respect he and his handlers have for transparency.  If he is playing games with records in Washington, there is a precedent in Texas.

    •  Here's an article by Dean on this subject (4.00)
      A Controversial Choice from April 2004.

      And here's a link to a recent discussion on the topic from the history news network HNN There are several links at the bottom to other articles relating to Weinstein.

      I remember reading about the initial nomination of Weinstein and I was outraged. Then it dropped off the radar. Now, I am just extremely sad.

      Primary resources about this period of our history will be purged before our very eyes. This does not bode well for future historians, nor for the survival of democracy in America.

      Dubya, yer momma may think yer cute, but I sure don't

      by cosmic debris on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 07:13:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very interesting (4.00)
        I hadn't seen this article before-- this is a good find. I intentionally didn't go into the specific problems with Dr. Weinstein as an appointee but it is certainly true that those are myriad as well.

        Among other things, he just became a member of the SAA in October 2004-- which is particularly sad considering that I am just beginning my training as an archivist and I had my own membership by September.

    •  I heard about this at a librarian conference. (none)
      Bush's gubernatorial records are "open" in the sense that they will be given to anyone who properly submits a request with the document number(s) for the materials needed.

      Of course, how do you get that document number? You do not. Because that process is still 'ongoing' and won't be completed 'for some time.'

      And yes, he did completely circumvent the Texas State Librarian. Who ought to sue.

  •  Excellent post (4.00)
    They're not just rewriting history, they're making it up as they go along. Factor in the abysmal job that journalists are doing and things look very dark indeed.

    Square with the hip and hip with the square.

    by JVictor on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 06:46:23 PM PST

  •  Wow.... (4.00)
    As an historian who has spent many an hour in various archives, this is like a punch in the gut......Talk about revisionist history, these guys were literal about creating their own reality.....

    Card-carrying member, RBC [Reality-Based Community]

    by warhistorian on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 07:15:20 PM PST

    •  1984 (4.00)
      Dang... I was thinking about 1984 while reading this one too.  warhistorian beat me to that scary and prescient allusion.  (A Victory Gin toast to you, sir.)

      Maybe I can beat the tin-foil hat crowd to bring up this action as part of:

      -False information was fed to news outlets in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

      -The FBI is pulling Scoop Jackson's records from a quarter century ago.

      -Records normally available from Gov. Bush and all recent Presidents are being restricted.

      -Valerie Plame outed.

      -The administration caught giving payola to friendly "journalists."

      -Gannon caught with his pants down and no real credentials.

      -etc etc ad nauseum.

          Some of this could be attributed to a few very clever lawyers locking down info, as they come across it, that might embarrass Bush .  (I think that's a natural thing to do and I think every administration does that to some extent.)

          But it looks like this goes beyond that.  It has taken on the look and feel of a systematic inteligence operation.  Not coordinated out of any government agency, of course, but by an informal shadow group... lets call them the Neo-Cons.  (Not for lack of a better name... but for lack of it possibly being anyone else!)

          It seems to me that this administration is using public resources to run intelligence operations in this country, designed, not to thwart the nations enemies, but the administrations enemies.

          At one time this was against the law of, and not just the sensibilities of, this republic.

      •  erratta (none)
        this post should have been a reply to Randular, further down the thread, not warhistorian.  too much victory gin maybe?

        a toast to you too Randular!

      •  We've Always Been at War... (none)

         with Iran.

         Bin Ladin has always been our Enemy.

         Saddam and Rumsfeld were never together in the same place.  That "photo" you so stubbornly cling to only exists in your head and, with you being insane, that means that it is only a figment of a deluded imagination.  Reality is what The Party says it is.

         Bush did not pull troops out of Saudi Arabia and that was never one of Bin Ladin's chief beefs with the U.S.  In fact, we've never had troops in Saudi Arabia.

         Now drink your clove-scented Victory Gin and let the tears well-up in your eyes as you think about your love of Big W.



        "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." T.J.

        by BenGoshi on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 06:43:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I Wonder How Much... (4.00)
    it's going to cost to add "Ministry of Truth" to the NARA letterhead and concrete sign in front of the building?



    From the fool's gold mouthpiece
    The hollow horn plays wasted words

  •  Historian Jon Weiner Gives The Lowdown (4.00)
    Historian Jon Weiner wrote a very good background piece for The Nation last year. He gets into the politicization of the office, as well as Weinstein's ethical problems--which are severe, to say the least. For examples:


    For Weinstein's 1998 book The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era, his publisher, Random House, in 1993 paid a group of retired KGB agents a substantial amount of money--Weinstein has told people $100,000--in exchange for "exclusive" access to the KGB archives..... This appears to violate the code of ethics of the International Council on Archives, which calls for "the widest possible access" to documents.

    To put this in context, Weiner notes:

    In contrast, when Yale University Press obtained access to the Moscow archives of the Communist Party, editors pledged to make their documents available to other researchers. Jonathan Brent, now editorial director of the Annals of Communism series at Yale, explained to the New York Times that Yale made that pledge because "we want to enhance scholarship, not impede it."

    This is not a mere technical dispute. The authority of records in question have been used to justify a veiw of the Cold War that other scholars sharply question--revolving particularly around charges that Alger Hiss was a Soviet Spy. The most basic way to approach such disputes is by examining the archival material, which is not available, due to the deal Weinstein struck.

    One expert cited by Weiner who has raised objections to Haunted Woord is "Anna Nelson of American University, who ...was partly responsible for the drafting of the Presidential Records Act of 1978," among other things. Weiner writes:

    I asked Nelson what she thought about the nomination of Weinstein to be archivist. "I don't think he's qualified," she said.


    A related problem concerns Weinstein's documentation of his sources in The Haunted Wood. On this point he has been criticized even by people who agree with his conclusions. Sam Tanenhaus, now editor of the New York Times Book Review and author of the leading biography of Whittaker Chambers, criticized The Haunted Wood in The New Republic, where Weinstein has often published. Tanenhaus wrote that he agreed with Weinstein about Alger Hiss and Chambers, but that The Haunted Wood was marred by what he called Weinstein's "failure" to document his sources properly. According to Tanenhaus, Weinstein did not use the accepted system of referencing these archival documents, which he attributed to Weinstein's "weakness for mystification"--not a quality you want in the archivist of the United States.

    (3) This is nothing new for Weinstein.
    Weinstein has also withheld research materials from other scholars--another ethical violation--refusing to make his interviews for his earlier book, Perjury (on the Hiss case), available to historians who disagree with him. This violates the Standards of the American Historical Association (see Victor Navasky, "Allen Weinstein's Docudrama," November 3, 1997). Published in 1978, the book presented new evidence that Hiss, the prominent New Deal figure accused of espionage in 1948 by the former Communist Chambers, was guilty as charged. Most reviewers said Weinstein's new evidence laid the case to rest. Weinstein's research was challenged, however, by Navasky, publisher and editorial director of The Nation, who contacted six of Weinstein's key sources and found that each said he or she had been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented in the book.

    Weinstein replied on national TV that he had tape recordings of his interviews to prove he had quoted them correctly. He invited Navasky "and anyone else" to hear the tapes; Navasky accepted. But when Navasky and two colleagues from The Nation arrived at Weinstein's home at the agreed-upon time, Weinstein refused to let them hear the tapes. Weinstein then stated in The New Republic, "All my files and tapes will be available to Victor Navasky and everyone else at the Truman Library later this year. I have been inundated with requests from scholars and others for access to these materials, and have decided this is the best way to provide it without totally disrupting my life and other work."

    That was 1978. Twenty-six years later, Weinstein has yet to deposit the tapes at the Truman Library or any other archive. Weinstein's continuing refusal to make the disputed materials available to other scholars violates the AHA "Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct," adopted in 1987, which states that historians should "make available to others their sources, evidence, and data, including the documentation they develop through interviews."

    Thus, I think it would be fair to say that this guy is the Abu Gonzales of potential archivists.  If you need someone to torture the truth, and hide it away where no one will find it, he's your man.

    •  To be fair (none)
      The article from The Nation is a little out of date-- after Dr. Weinstein's Senate Hearings, the publicity which his arguably unethical historical practices was given prompted him to release at least some of his sources on Alger Hiss. The point is still well-received, however-- the Archivist of the United States should not have to feel pressured by a Senate hearing before he releases documentation on a subject of historical import.
      •  History Is Never Out Of Date (4.00)
        I intentionally skipped over the parts that were specifically dated. That fact that a life-long rule breaker cleans up a little of his mess under U.S. Senate scrutiny is merely an attempt to hide his true record--which is that of a partisan obstructionist.

        BTW,Weiner has a more recent piece, an Op-Ed published in late January in which he notes:

        Weinstein personifies many of the problems of secrecy in Washington today: His record on access to documents is bad. He has refused to release to other scholars his interviews and his copies of Soviet espionage documents.

        Secrecy is an issue now because, in 2001, President Bush issued a new executive order governing presidential records. Now the president has the right to veto the release of presidential papers ordered by the National Archives under the 12-year rule, even if they have passed the declassification review. Former presidents have also been given the right to veto release of documents, as do the family and heirs of former presidents. Weinstein told the Senate committee that, if confirmed, he would go to court to defend the Bush order on withholding presidential papers.

        In the fight at the National Archives between democracy and secrecy, right now secrecy is winning.

      •  Violates the Ethical Standards of the Profession (4.00)
        As Jon Wiener points out in his excellent new book Historians in Trouble, which contains a chapter on the Weinstein case, our new archivist's refusal to provide access to the sources for both his Hiss book and his more recent book on Soviet espionage is in direct violation of the ethical principles published by the American Historical Association, the professional organization for historians in the U.S.

        The AHA's "Statement on Standards of Professional Content" (adopted in 1987, after the Hiss book was published but well before The Haunted Wood) states that historians should "make available to others their sources, evidence, and data, including the documentation they develop through interviews," and that this access to sources be "free, open, equal, and nondiscriminatory" (quoted in Wiener Historians in Trouble, p. 37).  Despite occasional promises to make his materials available, Weinstein has utterly ignored calls to live up to these standards.  

        (Incidentally, Wiener's book is well worth picking up.  It's very interesting, and a very good read, though much of it may be familiar to readers of his occasional articles in The Nation. In Historians in Trouble, Wiener considers why some historians who are accused of professional misconduct lose their jobs while others suffer no consequences. Guess what happens to the conservative historians he writes about? They pretty much all end up with appointments in the Bush administration!)

        Start doing the things you think should be done, and start being what you think society should become. -Adam Michnik.

        by GreenSooner on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 08:53:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You're soooo funny (none)
          "Ethical Standards"?  As regards a Bush appointee?  An idea a "quaint" as the Geneva conventions.

          Damn, BushCorpTM certainly takes its message control seriously.  Of course, for his second term our Dear Leader is concerned with his place in history.  

          What better place to start?

          Social Security Privatization is Welfare for Wallstreet

          by CaliBlogger on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 12:19:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Very disturbing (4.00)
    Successful crimes require the suppression of evidence.

    What is there to do except hope that some individual archivist/patriots will make copies of the information that I'm sure BushCo intends to destroy?

  •  My thanks (none)
    I wish to thank Herodotusjr for the excellent diary and the other information, archive, and history pros who joined to make this a fine short seminar on the politicization of OUR archives. It is disturbing that what was formerly a position of non-partisanship and some intellectual honor has now been politicized.

    Rolfyboy -Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. - Mark Twain

    by Rolfyboy6 on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 09:14:11 PM PST

  •  Several questions (4.00)

    This excellent post triggered a recent thought.  Wasn't the 25 Jan 2001 memo from Richard Clarke to Condi Rice declassified last October, but only made publicly available after the election and Ms. Rice's Senate confirmation?

    If so, several questions:

    1. Is the Archivist of the US involved in the declassification and release of such materials?

    2. If so, was the delay of release of this particular document unusual?

    3. If this delay was unusual, would there be a paper trail associated with the document's release?

    •  Some very good questions (none)
      Unfortunately I don't really know much about the National Archives side of NARA's operations-- most of my work with the Administration has come from a stint at a Presidential Library, which generally holds more personal information-- but it is worth pointing out that records do not go directly from the creator to the National Archives. There's often a lag-time during which creating agencies will keep memoranda such as this for their own records, and only after the files are of no current use to the agency are they transferred to the Archives.

      In the case of the State Department, they would have more reason than most to hold on to their documents for longer, because if declassification isn't done in-house it's put under time-release restriction in the Archives (usually 25-30 years) unless specifically requisitioned through FOIA, in which case they have to specifically send an official out and determine whether the document can be declassified (a pain for both the repository and the State Department). However, the fact that the memo was declassified and then held is troubling. So, the Archives in this case may have had minimal involvement, but this certainly is the sort of thing they COULD be involved in. I bet there's some FOIA documentation re: this particular issue, but I'm too lazy to look it up ;) It shouldn't be hard to find if you're willing to put in the effort.

  •  Meaty piece from the (none)
    The Center for Public Integrity's The Buying of the President 2004  speaks to general issue of purging/sealing Government Archives under Bush.

    *    Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration encouraged federal agencies to purge a wide array of potentially sensitive data from their Web sites, a decree that, for a time, removed the entire online presence of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and which ultimately resulted in hundreds of thousands of pages being deleted from sites maintained by the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Archives and Records Administration, and other federal entities. "It is no longer possible for families and communities to get data critical to protecting themselves, information such as pipeline maps (that show where they are and whether they have been inspected), airport safety data, environmental data, and even documents that are widely available on private sites today were removed from government sites and have not reappeared," OMB Watch, which for two decades has been chronicling the activities of the Office of Management and Budget, noted in a paper released in October 2002.
    *    On March 25, 2003, President Bush signed an order that postponed, by three years, the release of millions of twenty-five-year-old documents slated for automatic declassification the following month. What's more, Executive Order 13292, which amended a Clinton Administration order, granted FOIA officers wider latitude to reclassify information that had already been declassified, and further eliminated a provision that instructed them not to classify information if there was "significant doubt" about the need to do so. While President Bush maintained that the order balanced national security with open government, some were not convinced. For example, the Washington Post quoted Thomas Blanton, executive director of the nonprofit National Security Archive, as saying that the order sends "one more signal from on high to the bureaucracy to slow down, stall, withhold, stonewall."
    *    When the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press surveyed the post-September 11th landscape, the First Amendment watchdog concluded that the government had embarked on "an unprecedented path of secrecy" that stifled the press' and the public's right to know. Among the reporters ensnared by the government's flight from the traditional culture of openness is John Solomon, deputy bureau chief of the Associated Press. Solomon, who works out of the Washington, D.C. bureau, was twice victimized. In one incident, a package sent by Federal Express to Solomon from another AP bureau was intercepted by the U.S. Customs Service and forwarded to the FBI, where its contents, an eight-year-old, unclassified Bureau lab report previously made public in a court case, were seized and withheld for seven months. In a previous incident, the Justice Department subpoenaed Solomon's home phone records in an attempt to unearth his confidential source for a wire service story. Solomon, who only learned about the subpoena months later, told the Center it's his understanding that the traditional practice of subpoenaing reporters as an absolute last resort in a "leaks" investigation is no longer the department's modus operandi. "I'm not quite sure it's gotten the public attention it deserves," Solomon told the Center. "I don't think the profession has realized the importance of the change of standards that has occurred as a result of my case."

    What an excellent day for an Exorcism.... Social Security THERE IS NO CRISIS!

    by DianeL on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 09:32:17 PM PST

  •  Excellent diary and... (none)
    ...and some excellent back up by posters. Thanks all.
  •  Another case in point (none)
    George W. Bush...

    ...more incompetent than Carter,

    ...more venal than Nixon,

    ...more partisan and ideologically blinded than...well, anyone!

  •  Media Whores Shill (yet) Again... (none)

     So, with "Travel-gate" you've got some people with the White House Travel Office who get replaced when a new Administraton comes in and that's one of the "Scandals of the Century" to the RWCM.

     And here you've got, well, what Herodotusjr says in his execellent Diary.  The RWCM's take on all this?  ??  (sound of crickets chirping . . .).


    "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." T.J.

    by BenGoshi on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 06:34:01 AM PST

    •  I STILL Don't Understand Travelgate (none)
      I hate to admit this, but I've never understood Travelgate.  I know that with Whitewater there was no there there. But with Travelgate, I don't understand where there is.

      Not that I've ever investigated it. I just assumed that in the normal course of reading, I would, at some point, have it explained to me. But that never happened.  I understand that something irregular was done. I just don't understand why it rose to the level of more than a 2-day story.

      •  Funny. Me, too. (none)

         I could have written your comment.  People got replaced in the WH travel office.  Maybe the issue was lack of due process, if the people involved were civil service-types, as opposed to political appointees.  If they were pure political appointess then there would have been less-than-zero there.  If they were civil servants who felt like they were let go without due process, then there's a civil service board (and union, as I understand it) to appeal to.  Pretty vanilla stuff any way you cut it, seems to me.  

         "Scandal"?  Yeh, what did we miss?


        "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." T.J.

        by BenGoshi on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 10:01:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Typical maneuvering (none)
    There were some comments when thsi happened but they quickly died down.


    With this adminsitration there are so many issues it is hard to maintain focus on just one.

    There are a lot of appointments to positions that would mean nothing to the general public, but which, when all are taken together, create a
    loyal set of bureaucrats who actually control the main working of the government.

    Let all the piss and venom be directed toward the higher up names, and in the meantime purge the lower ranks and fill them with the real people who make your agenda become a reality.

    And of course, if a democrat becomes President and wants to remove Weinstein, watch the Republicans howl about how a good enough reason has not been provided and how it is being done for politcial reasons.

    Bush, so incompetent, he can't even do the wrong things right.

    by JAPA21 on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 07:15:49 AM PST

  •  Not just presidential documents (4.00)
    Let's not forget that all of the 911 commission documents will be delivered into the possession of the National Archives.  There is some speculation that the Bush administration wanted their own man in place before the papers arrived in order to have some influence on declassification dates.
  •  I am humbled (none)
    and amazed at the depth of knowledge of some of the diarists, and that of the respondents.  I myself have been pretty much of a parasite, not really able to contribute much beyond my appreciation of the hard work and insight of many of you.  So i guess for now i will just lift a glass and say Bravo Kossacks!  And continue to inform myself.  Grateful for brave truth tellers, even if they are "leftie bloggers":-)  Great diary and comments.  I do remember reading about this last year, but it, like so much of the Bush administration's malfeasance, just fell off the radar.
  •  so Bush broke the law... (none)
    in the interests of covering up Daddy's past?

    Why am I not surprised?

    And why am I not surprised the the Repug Congress is letting him get away with it?

    "Don't want to be an American idiot..." -- Green Day

    by Black Maned Pensator on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 09:35:36 AM PST

  •  In the current "This Week in Fascism" (none)
         Here is what I wrote about this diary in my current issue of This Week in Fascism please come over because I have an inportant question that I am asking everone.
         If you believe that I misrepresented this diary or your position please leave a comment in the reply here and I will gladly edit my diary.

         Herodotus Jr. presented some insight into the little known Archivist of the U.S.: Questionable Bush appointment slips under the radar. It seems the Administration asked for the resignation of the previous archivist, John W. Carlin, without informing Congress of the reason. The 1985 law which created the lifetime “independent” position required that a president must explain why he was replacing an archivist. If you read through the comments you might conclude that this appointment of Allan Weinstein as Archivist of the United States has more to do with propaganda then with historical accuracy.

    "It's about the accountability, stupid." Thomas Davis 2005

    by Tomtech on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 06:35:57 PM PST

    •  Looks good from here (none)
      The only thing I'd quibble with is that I prefer my name as one word (Herodotusjr, or HerodotusJr if you must, rather than Herodotus Jr.) Other than that, I think you're good to go. Thank you for taking notice of my contribution to the good fight!
  •  One man's view of this appointment (none)
        Hiss-Chambers-Nixon remains a flashpoint of our old, pervasive issue: how broadly to construe our democracy.  The issue is currently manifested as whether the U.S. should attempt to destroy foreign regimes that hamper certain U.S. interests, or whether a broader and deeper approach is safer, more economically and morally sustainable, and less corrosive to democracy itself.  We have managed to survive the wounds sustained around the issue in what has become a familiar cycle:  ignoring, and then suppressing, and then necessarily, and sometimes even forcibly, resolving our differences over the issue.  We lose our national essence to the extent we pretend that we do not have a national tension, and discussion, and experimentation, and learning process, as to the central issue of how to our democracy should regulate power, or conversely, how much democracy our power should allow.    
         Allan Weinstein is a prominent partisan on the right wing side of the Hiss matter.  I have no problem with that.  The debate is necessary, and on the matter of the Hiss case, I do not pretend to "know the answer."  I did know John Lowenthal, and what I know specifically of Hiss, I learned from John.  I can vouch for John's acuity and thoroughness, and his charming personal manner, all of which, I am convinced, made him a formidable investigator.  
          The insertion of Allan Weinstein, a political partisan, into the U.S. national archive is breathtaking in its audacity. It is a telling indication of how deeply Bush-Cheney is attempting to ignore and suppress our national discussion.  The indications that Weinstein has actively suppressed documents in furtherance of his partisanship show once again that the administration has no concern about an appearance, or an outright descent, into suppression.  
           This was low-hanging fruit for an increasingly Soviet-style regime.  Who will protest Weinstein's appointment?  History instruction is devolving into plutocratic propaganda. Those fortunate enough to be teaching history must start with the concept of historiography.  Michael Parenti's views are not always my cup of tea, but I can highly recommend "The Assassination of Julius Caesar" as a starting point to give students a vivid idea of how much is at stake in considering the motivations of historians.
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