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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  May 2006, Week 2

ARCHIVES May 2006, Week 2

Subject:

NARA IG report on the missing Roberts records at the Reagan Library

From:

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Date:

Thu, 11 May 2006 07:34:21 EDT

Content-Type:

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Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (77 lines)

Christopher Lee of the Washington Post has a good story about NARA's 
investigation of what happened with a missing file relating to John Roberts.  The 
file, which dealt with affirmative action issues, disappeared at NARA's Reagan 
Library last summer.  "The OIG was unable to determine whether the missing file 
was taken intentionally, unintentionally, or lost."  

As in previous controversies involving Presidential Libraries, it appears 
that regulations that were supposed to protect NARA, its records and its 
employees were not followed. [Pause while everyone laughs at Maarja mentioning 
regulations, given my recent gripes about researcher cards.  However, it is 
personally frustrating to me that NARA was so hard nosed in dealing with me and my 
researcher card on April 27, one day before it expired, but, in cases involving 
truly important records and national issues, has bent the rules.  It appears 
NARA seemingly bent the rules in at least two cases during the last few years for 
present and former White House officials.]  Lee notes, "The lawyers working 
for the White House 'were allowed to bring personal belongings with them into 
the room while they worked,' investigators wrote. The lawyers also were left 
alone in the office with the records for as long as 30 minutes while they 
participated in conference calls with the White House, the report said.  

All of which is unusual, because researchers normally work in public reading 
rooms under the supervision of Archives staff. Federal rules prohibit 
researchers from bringing in anything that could be used to conceal a document, and 
researchers must use paper and pencils provided by the Archives."

Ironically, for every day researchers coming to NARA, rules covering use of 
records are increasingly tight.

A PDF version of the redacted NARA IG report is available at 
http://www.thememoryhole.org/nara/nara_roberts.pdf
or via
http://www.thememoryhole.org/nara/roberts.htm .

News reports in 2004 suggested that Sandy Berger was left alone with records 
at the Archives in Washington while he made phone calls.  If true, the Reagan 
Library situation would appear to reflect some of the same sort of deference 
to VIPs.  In this case, White House lawyers were left alone with records for as 
long as 30 minutes while they made telephone calls.  I don't know why this 
happened, other than that they were VIPs.  But you would think that NARA would 
have been mindful of the bad publicity it received in the earlier case, in 
2004.  It's too bad there wasn't anyone to say, no, push back, let's protect 
everyone and take a hard nosed approach to this.  Maybe that wasn't deemed 
possible, if so, that's not a good sign.  Certainly, none of us would be able to 
demand privacy to be alone in a room with records while we made phone calls.  NARA 
definitely would be hard nosed with us!!  We would be told to leave the room 
and the records and to step outside to make our calls.

Names are redacted from the report, the interview write ups, and emails, so 
we cannot tell from this FOIA release who made all the decisions affecting the 
handling of records by White House officials..  The redacted IG report is 64 
pages long, I've only looked at some of it.  I don't know whether it gets into 
the question of whether staff at NARA argued for more safeguards or a more 
hard nosed approach to handling the White House lawyers. Perhaps they did, 
perhaps they didn't.  I suspect the IG report won't touch on that but I'll take a 
closer look at it shortly.

BTW, those of you who are SAA members may have noticed that Nancy Smith, Jim 
Hastings and Steve Tilley of NARA are going to be doing a panel on the Roberts 
records at SAA this summer.  It should be interesting!

Mr. Lee's story is available at 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/10/AR2006051002232.html (registration required)

Maarja

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