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Subject:

Fwd: Archivist of the United States

From:

Iain Flett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Iain Flett <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 20 Apr 2004 08:16:27 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (276 lines)

Forwarded to NRA from Australian Archivist's Listserv by Iain Flett - a
reminder of our responsibilities!
____________________________________
----- Original Message -----
From: "Sims, Debbie" <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2004 8:57 AM
Subject: Archivist in the News


>From the Australian Archivist's Listserv
>
>NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE (Vol. 10, #16; 16 April 2004)
>by Bruce Craig (editor) <[log in to unmask]>
>National Coalition for History (NCH)
>Website http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~nch
>*****************
>1. Historical and Archival Communities Push for Senate Hearing on
>Archivist of the U.S. Position 2. Historians and Archivists Take a
>Closer Look at the Weinstein Nomination
>
>1. HISTORICAL AND ARCHIVAL COMMUNITIES URGE SENATE HEARING ON ARCHIVIST
>OF THE U.S. POSITION Concern is growing within the archival and
>historical communities regarding the Bush administration's hoped for
>"fast-track" process to replace Archivist of the United States John
>Carlin with one of its own choosing -- historian Allen Weinstein.
>According to informed sources, the administration hopes to short-circuit
>the normal confirmation process and see Weinstein confirmed through an
>"expedited" process. Their goal
>-- place Weinstein in the position prior to the November election.
>According to Hill insiders, the effort to replace Carlin is coming from
>the highest levels of the White House. Reportedly, Karl Rove who is
>widely viewed as one of the president's chief political advisors, if not
>his political mastermind and, Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the
>President, want their own archivist in place for two overarching
>reasons: first, because of the sensitive nature of certain presidential
>and executive department records likely to be opened in the near future,
>and second, because there is genuine concern in the White House that the
>president may not be re-elected.
>
>Though it is not widely known, in January 2005, the first batch of
>records (the mandatory 12 years of closure having passed) relating to
>the president's father's administration will be subject to the
>Presidential Records Act (PRA) and could be opened. Another area of
>concern to presidential officials relates to the 9-11 Commission
>records. Because there is no mandatory 30-year closure rule (except for
>highly classified White House and Executive Department records and
>documents), all materials relating to the commission are scheduled to be
>transferred to the National Archives upon termination of the Commission
>later this year. These records could be made available to researchers
>and journalists as soon as they are processed by NARA.
>
>In what appears to be a calculated move by administration officials,
>Rove and Gonzales have advanced the nomination of Weinstein fully aware
>that according to the "National Archives and Records Administration Act
>of 1984 (P.L. 98-497) the Archivist of the United States position is to
>be an appointment based "without regard to political affiliations and
>solely on the basis of the professional qualifications required to
>perform the duties and responsibilities of the office of the Archivist."
>If Weinstein is confirmed and if President Bush is not elected, then
>President Kerry could be accused of "politicizing" the position should
>he try to replace Weinstein. In fact, though, the president's strategy
>in seeking to replace Carlin at this time rather than later injects an
>element of partisanship that could give John Kerry, should he be elected
>president in November, ample justification to replace Weinstein in the
>same manner that the White House is seeking to replace Carlin.
>
>Carlin has made it widely known that he anticipated stepping down from
>the Archivist position in July 2005, upon his 65th birthday, upon the
>tenth anniversary of his appointment to the position, and upon the
>completion of his ten-year strategic plan for NARA. His intention not to
>step down until then has been stated in several public interviews
>including (reportedly), in a recent interview with CNN's Brian Lamb (26
>November 2003 broadcast of "National Journal"). Months back, recognizing
>that Carlin intended to step down next year, archival organizations had
>begun to pull together qualification statements and a "highly qualified"
>list of names for the White House to consider in finding Carlin's
>replacement. What appeared to be an orderly procedure to pass power from
>Carlin to a new archivist in summer 2005 has now been short-circuited.
>
>There are two basic ways for the Archivist of the United States to be
>replaced -- resignation or replacement by the President. In his letter
>to NARA employees last week (see "Historian Allen Weinstein Slotted by
>Bush Administration to be Next Archivist of the United States" in NCH
>WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol 10, #15 8 April 2004) Carlin stated that he was
>not resigning and he would not submit his resignation until a new
>archivist is appointed. There is no indication that the White House has
>any cause-related reason to replace Carlin and no reason was
>communicated to Congress when Weinstein's nomination was advanced
>formally last week. Some observers speculate that by refusing to resign
>until a new archivist is in place, Carlin is tacitly protesting what
>Hill insiders consider his "premature" removal.
>
>If Carlin (a Democrat appointed by Bill Clinton) had resigned outright,
>the decks would have been cleared for the White House to promptly
>replace him. However, that did not happen. It appears that the White
>House does not want any adverse publicity that would be generated by
>officially coming up with a "reason" for communicating to Congress its
>desire to replace Carlin as required by law ("the President shall
>communicate the reasons for any such removal to each House of the
>Congress"). Hence, by advancing Weinstein's nomination (which was
>received by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on 8 April) and by
>securing Weinstein's confirmation, the White House can then quietly
>force Carlin's resignation.
>
>Owing to the controversy surrounding the anticipated resignation of
>Carlin, historians and archivists are calling for these and other issues
>to be addressed in Weinstein's confirmation hearing. To that end, some
>historical and archival organizations believe that John Carlin should
>also be invited to testify under oath regarding the pressure he is under
>and what he knows about his "premature" resignation. Governmental
>Affairs Committee staff, however, report that such a move would almost
>be unprecedented in a confirmation hearing.
>
>On 14 April 2004, archival, historical, and other governmental watchdog
>organizations concerned both the politicization of the appointment
>process and the qualifications of the nominee, issued a "statement"
>calling for the Senate to conduct a confirmation hearing consistent with
>other positions of importance requiring Senate confirmation. The
>statement drafted by the Society of American Archivists and issued on
>behalf of several archival and historical organizations (see
>http://www.archivists.org/statements/weinstein.asp ) raises a concern
>about "the sudden announcement on April 8, 2004, that the White House
>has nominated Allen Weinstein to become the next Archivist of the United
>States." According to the statement that has the endorsement of the
>Society of American Archivists, the Association of Research Libraries,
>Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, Northwest Archivists,
>Inc., the Association of Documentary Editors, Midwest Archives
>Conference, the American Association for State and Local History, and
>the Organization of American Historians: "Prior to the announcement,
>there was no consultation with professional organizations of archivists
>or historians. This is the first time since 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....the decision to appoint a new
>Archivist should be considered in accordance with both the letter and
>the spirit of the 1984 law."
>
>The statement also calls on the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs
>"to schedule open hearings on this nomination in order to explore more
>fully 1) the reasons why the Archivist is being replaced, and 2)
>Professor Weinstein's qualifications to become Archivist of the United
>States."
>
>2. HISTORIANS AND ARCHIVISTS BEGIN TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE
>WEINSTEIN
>NOMINATION
>Now that the nomination of Allen Weinstein has been officially advanced
>to the Senate for confirmation (see related story above), historians and
>archivists are scrambling to learn more about the president's nominee.
>Allen Weinstein possesses both strong Republican political connections
>and scholarly qualifications. In the past he has served as a foreign
>policy adviser to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) Chair of the Senate Foreign
>Relations Committee. Lugar has worked with Weinstein for years in
>promoting democracy across the globe. According to the senator,
>Weinstein "always has had a keen understanding and perspective of the
>complexities of democratic societies, qualities that will serve him well
>as head of the agency that preserves the nation's most important
>documents." (For Weinstein's official bio, tap into
>http://www.centerfordemocracy.org/awbio.html ). But outside the world of
>Republican political activists and a small circle of historians of
>espionage, Weinstein is not very well known by many academics. Also, he
>is a virtual unknown to archivists. Though he possesses fine academic
>training and qualifications, Weinstein has not been a member of either
>the Organization of American Historians or the American Historical
>Association for years, essentially since his career turned to that of
>being an activist in the field of foreign relations and international
>service.
>
>Several historians and journalists familiar with Weinstein's scholarly
>and popular writings (especially relating to the contentious Alger Hiss
>case) and career have started to express their views on the nominee
>privately and publicly. His nomination has been characterized by former
>National Security Archive founder and director Scott Armstrong as "the
>most cynical appointment of an Archivist possible. He [Weinstein] has a
>very clouded, very complicated, self-promoting, neo-con, politically
>manipulative record....While he uses historical documentation in his
>work, he is very selective in his use."
>
>Much of the controversy on Weinstein's work relates to the disposition
>of his research notes and his research methods relating to his "Perjury:
>The Hiss-Chambers Case" (1978, rev. 1998) and a more recent work, "The
>Haunted Wood" (1999). His book on the Alger Hiss case is considered in
>many circles as definitive. Because Weinstein concluded that Alger Hiss
>was Soviet spy, he earned the wrath of Hiss's defenders (including
>Victor Navasky publisher of The Nation), but, at the same time,
>Weinstein found himself embraced by conservatives for the same reasons.
>"Perjury" served as his entree into the world of conservative causes and
>financing which Weinstein has tapped throughout the years to help
>underwrite his various projects. (For interesting reading focusing on
>the records-related issues regarding "Perjury," tap into:
>http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml%3Fi=19971103&s=navasky and
>http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20010716&c=1&s=navasky ). More
>controversial questions arise out of a more recent study in which
>allegedly Weinstein (or his publisher) paid a fee to the KGB for
>"exclusive access" to documents that no other historians have been able
>to see relating to Soviet espionage in America. Historian Ellen
>Schrecker writes about Weinstein's role in the payment to the KGB (in
>possible violation of Russian law) that resulted in the crafting of "The
>Haunted Wood" co-authored by Weinstein and former KGB agent Alexander
>Vassiliev (For more on this controversial issue, tap into:
>http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=19990524&s=schrecker
>). Schrecker notes "this sort of research is not the kind that inspires
>confidence within the scholarly community" and it raises "ethical
>questions." (See also other recent postings on the History News Network
>by British economist-historian Roger Sandilands:
>http://hnn.us/articles/printfriendly/4604.html and The Nation lead
>editorial, "The Haunted Archives" at:
>http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040503&s=editors ). In addition
>to professional historians' concern about Weinstein's research methods
>and attitudes about access to records, Weinstein has yet to establish
>his credentials in the realm of archival management.
>Consequently, archivists have begun to compile a series of questions
>that
>Weinstein will be asked to respond to.
>In the statement issued 14 April (see related story above) archivists
>have expressed a desire to learn more about Weinstein's "knowledge and
>understanding of the critical issues confronting NARA and the archival
>profession generally, especially the challenges of information
>technology, and the competing demands of public access to government
>records, privacy, homeland security, and ensuring the authenticity and
>integrity of all records." To that end, archivists wondered how
>Weinstein believes NARA "should balance competing interests for
>protecting sensitive or confidential information with those seeking to
>gain access to records created by government agencies; ideas for
>continuing essential programs as well as important new archival
>initiatives, such as the Electronic Records Archives project; his
>thoughts on fully supporting the National Historical Publications and
>Records Commission (NHPRC) whose grants help to raise the level of
>archival practice at state and local levels," and his "experience and
>demonstrated ability to lead and manage a large government agency such
>as NARA."
>
>No doubt in the weeks ahead, answers to these and other questions stand
>to make this nomination controversial both in terms of the
>politicization of the office of Archivist of the United States and with
>respect to the nominee's specific qualifications. Hopefully, answers
>will come when the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee holds
>confirmation hearings that have yet to be scheduled.
>
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****************************************
Iain EF Flett 5 Provost Road, Tayport, Fife,
Scotland DD6 9JE +44 (0)1382 552218
<[log in to unmask]>
Traidcraft - fighting poverty through trade
http://www.traidcraft.co.uk
************************
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it" George
Santayana
************************************

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