Inside The Clinton Archives
© National Journal Group Inc.
Monday, Dec. 17, 2007
|“These are the most important records... of the
government. And yet we can't provide sufficient staff to
process presidential records in as timely a manner as everyone
— Sharon Fawcett
Are Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton locking away
records from their years in the White House while Sen. Clinton seeks
the presidency, or are they eager for speedy release of materials
from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock,
Ark. -- as they have argued in recent weeks?
National Journal's Alexis
Simendinger asked expert Sharon Fawcett, assistant
archivist for presidential libraries at the National Archives and
Records Administration. The following is a complete transcript of
the Nov. 30 interview about President Clinton's instructions to the
Archives, how the former first lady's records are handled, and how
presidential records have been treated under the law ever since
President Nixon left office. For previous Insider Interviews,
Q: There are journalists, bloggers and political commentators
-- even Karl Rove, President Bush's former White House political
adviser -- who recently have suggested that President Clinton's
actions tied to his records and those of his wife have been
secretive or unusual. Right or wrong?
Fawcett: This matter has provoked a lot of
questioning, but the National Archives believes there has been
some misunderstanding about where we are in processing the Clinton
records. No one is doing anything extraordinary or outside of the
realm of what their statutory rights are. And another thing to
remember is that executive privilege is a constitutional right,
and not just a statutory right. The Presidential
Records Act is a statutory right, but executive privilege is a
It's really been useful to have this discussion about the
opening of presidential records and to call attention to the major
issues, and the complexity of reviewing and opening these files.
These are the most important records, the highest policy records
of the government. And yet we can't provide sufficient staff to
process presidential records in as timely a manner as everyone
would like to see them processed. I'm hoping that through all of
this discussion, we are able to raise the awareness of the need
for more resources for the National Archives in order to open
these and other very important historical materials.
The statute, the Presidential Records Act, allows the president
to impose certain restrictions on his records during the first 12
years after he leaves office.
Interestingly, he has to impose that restriction while he is
still in office. If he neglects to send the Archivist a letter
saying, "I wish to exercise my rights under the Presidential
Records Act to impose these six categories of restrictions on my
records for the first 12 years I'm out of office," he doesn't have
the right. He has to do it while he's in office. So, normally
presidents, usually in their first couple of months they're in
office, will send a letter to the Archivist so designating that,
and naming his or her representative.
Q: And the National Archives seeks that letter
[PDF] from the president?
Fawcett: We meet with the incoming
administration, with their general counsel's office, and we brief
them on the Presidential Records Act, and we do let them know that
this is something they need to pay attention to.
Q: By law enacted after the clash over President Nixon's
papers, who owns the records created by a president and his White
Fawcett: The records that represent the
constitutional and statutory roles of the president belong to the
government, and the Archivist of the United States takes legal
custody of those records at 12 noon on January 20 of the inaugural
Q: President Clinton left office in early 2001, and by early
2005, it appears that he began to release some of his documents to
the public, as the law allows. Is that right?
Fawcett: In November 2002, President Clinton
sent a second letter
[PDF] to the Archivist which provided guidance to the NARA staff
on the processing of his records -- a letter we requested --
specifically outlining what "easing of the restrictions"
categories the president would be interested in applying to his
records. I mean, they came to us and they were fairly open about
what they wanted to open, and he listed several categories in the
And those categories have widely been interpreted to mean he
was closing everything, for example, related to Mrs. Clinton, his
communications with Mrs. Clinton. What he really said was that he
would want to consider some material for withholding, but he
wanted to see it first. It didn't mean he was closing it outright.
But he did not want us to open anything regarding his
communications with Mrs. Clinton -- and several other categories
of information, including, for example, communications with former
presidents -- without first being aware of it, seeing it, and
giving it a pass. He encouraged NARA staff to consult with his
designated representative on questions and concerns with respect
to these categories.
Q: When you say "easing of the confidential advice category,"
that is under President Clinton's own say-so, right?
Fawcett: That's under his own say-so.
Q: Whom did President Clinton designate as his
Fawcett: He designated the first lady and
attorney Bruce Lindsey as his representatives.
Q: Do people misunderstand the law that the president is
Fawcett: The restriction category [to close
some records] specifically at issue in this case is from the
Presidential Records Act, is a category that we at the National
Archives call "P5 confidential advice." It allows for the
restriction of confidential advice between the president and his
advisers, or between his advisers, for a period of time not to
exceed 12 years after the president leaves office.
One of the reasons why President Bush revised and issued a new
executive order [in 2001] on presidential
records, is that at the end of the 12-year period of the
[Ronald] Reagan records -- Reagan is the first
president to have completed a 12-year period -- there was no
longer an applicable FoIA exemption. Because once presidential
records move out of the 12-year-Presidential-Records-Act
restriction period, they can be restricted under the FoIA
exemptions, and those apply to all executive agency governmental
records, except for the FoIA exemption on the "deliberative
process." Congress, in the Presidential Records Act, specifically
exempted the presidential records from that provision of the FoIA.
So, that provision could no longer apply to presidential records,
which means that the only way a president can withhold material of
a confidential nature -- not security classified, but of a
confidential-advice nature -- is to claim executive privilege. And
that's the whole heart of why the executive order was revised by
Now, there are provisions in the executive order that made
other changes that many groups found objectionable, but the major
reason for issuing the executive order was because of the loss of
that confidential-advice exemption, and the need to expand the
time in order to review for privilege claims.
Q: Has President Clinton indicated to the archivists that
there are any requests received at his library that he is
particularly sensitive about?
Fawcett: Only what's in his  letter.
That is the only communication we have regarding that.
Q: The only other communications on this topic that you know
about are the ones President Clinton has made publicly?
Q: During Senator Clinton's presidential campaign, have either
President Clinton or Mrs. Clinton tried to contact the Archives, or
through anyone else, to clarify anything having to do with the
records, or to issue new instructions?
Fawcett: Well, one of the things that President
Clinton noted is that sometimes the Archives may be issuing notice
[for records clearance]. This is a hypothetical example: 25,000
pages and the [Clinton] representative has finished reviewing
20,000 pages. And they've wanted to go forward with the pages that
have been completed: "Let's notice those 20,000 pages, let's get
that out there. And we'll continue to work on the remaining
That put a little bit of an administrative burden on NARA to
separate that out, but we understood the need to get the material
out there, and we immediately changed our processes so that we
could notify incrementally, as records came through the formal
review processes. That's been in the last few months.
Q: When President Clinton told the Archives he wanted to see
the communications with Mrs. Clinton before he considered releasing
them, was he going the extra mile? In other words, are all
communications between a president and his or her spouse considered
Fawcett: In the National Archives, while many
family communications are personal, the first lady [or first
spouse] has a role. And when a first lady is representing the
government in that role, we would consider the communications
between her and the president to be governmental.
Now, if there are communication exchanges between the president
and first lady about whether she should consider running for the
Senate, those would be personal. If they talked about a
health-care task force, she was playing a governmental role and
representing the president in that role and those communications
would be official.
Q: What other records of a president are considered personal?
Fawcett: The personal records are materials
that are personal to the president's private life -- financial
information; information about his family, his children; also,
political information -- information about his role as head of the
political party. Information about his campaign is considered
political, and therefore personal, and not governmental.
Q: Did President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton issue any special
instructions to release political records, since political records
can be held back as personal?
Fawcett: The Presidential Records Act suggests
that those records should be separated. In reality, it's very
difficult to separate the records because events are complex. For
example, a presidential trip to a disaster area is partly
constitutional and statutory, because the president is inspecting
a disaster, but perhaps on the way to or from he went to a
fundraising dinner, and that part of the trip was political.
So it is very hard to keep the files completely separate. That
ends up being a responsibility of the Archives to work through
with the president's representative when we start reviewing. And,
in fact, if there is a document and it includes both political and
presidential material, that document is in fact presidential,
although the political material may be closed under the privacy
restriction. That's when we would redact. But we would consider
that [as a whole] to be a governmental record. We are not going to
start cutting up records and say, "Here, you get page one, and we
get page two."
Q: Is there anything the Clintons have done of note to expand
the open holdings of the Clinton library?
Fawcett: I would say this: In the five-year
period before the records were open to FoIA, certainly the
president was interested in what the Archives could do about
systematic review, and even requested that we review materials.
And we agreed together that we should try to systematic-review
many of the domestic policy files. So the Clinton library has done
some systematic review of the domestic policy files because the
president, through his representative, requested that we consider
doing that. They were very interested in processing and opening
the domestic policy files.
Q: When President Clinton says, as he has in several
interviews recently, that he wants to get more records out as soon
as possible about Senator Clinton and her contributions as first
lady, can he wave a wand and tell the Archives to dump the
Fawcett: To an extent. He could waive all of
his interests in reviewing the records, if he chose, but it would
not automatically result in the dumping of this information out
there for everyone to see. The Archives still has to conduct a
review for other restrictive categories: for national security,
for third-party privacy information. These records will be highly
sought after when they come out, so we need to go through and
redact phone numbers and Social Security numbers, and other
information that could be damaging to a person's personal privacy,
so those are the kinds of things that slow down the process.
[For example,] we are in the current process of reviewing Mrs.
Clinton's schedules [as first lady]. If her schedules indicate
information about the Secret Service, we redact that information
because it's critical and substantive to the protection of
president. So that's the kind of information that we go through
page by page and look at.
It would make the process slightly faster to not be concerned
about a [presidential] representative's review of this material,
however, it doesn't mean that he can wave the wand and
automatically, the National Archives will open all this material.
And you have to remember, too, that he [President Clinton] has a
statutory right to review this material.
Q: Some people believe that because there has been increased
interest in Senator Clinton's records as first lady, prompted by her
presidential campaign, those document requests should leap to the
head of the line for expedited processing and release by the
Archives. Is there a specified way in which the Archives must
process requests for presidential records?
Fawcett: The law specifies that people can file
a Freedom of
Information Act request for presidential records. And in the
administration of FoIA, it's "first in and first out."
However, we have been permitted through court actions over the
litigation about FoIA requests in general, not just FoIAs
involving presidential records, to make the process more
efficient. And one of the efficiencies in the process is to
develop different queues. So you might have a complex queue, where
the records come from many sources. You have a simple queue, where
the record is one file; it's a few pages.
If you just had one long queue, if somebody had a request for 3
million pages, and you had a request for five pages, and you were
behind the 3-million-page requester, it would be a long time
before you would get your request. So, by having different queues,
and the [Archives] staff rotating across the queues when they
picked the next case to process, they are able to answer more of
these simple requests and can turn some of them around fairly
We have several different queues at the [Clinton] library.
There's a queue for classified records. There's a queue for
audio-visual records. There's a complex queue where there's more
than 10,000 pages.
Q: Where are Mrs. Clinton's health care task force records,
and have any of those records been processed and released?
Fawcett: The records are at the Clinton
presidential library in Little Rock, Ark. About 500,000 pages were
processed and released while the president was still in office --
I think they were released in 1994 -- in response to litigation in
the early part of the Administration. These are records that
directly related to the task force. There are many other records
at the presidential library that relate to health care reform,
that are outside of the purview of that task force, and those are
not open, but there are FoIA requests pending for those records.
Q: If the Little Rock library gets a request for documents
that the archivists know were released while the president was in
office, but the researcher is not aware of that, what does the
Fawcett: We just let the researcher know that.
They would have to go to the library in Little Rock to review
those records or order copies at their expense.
Q: To clarify, a former first lady does not have executive
Fawcett: No, that's right. Some people think it
is Senator Clinton who is claiming executive privilege. She has no
claim of executive privilege over these records. It is her husband
who would have the claim of executive privilege over any of these
records. And actually, since we are within the 12-year period, he
wouldn't need to assert executive privilege. He would just close
them as confidential advice, if he chose.
Q: Has President Clinton done that?
Fawcett: We have many things closed in library
in that category. As of last February there were about 28,000
pages closed in all categories of restrictions, including
Q: President Clinton has total control over that, within the
12-year window under the law?
Fawcett: Right, although I would say sometimes
the Archives makes the first cut of that and then provides the
material to them to look at.
Q: Have there been occasions when the Archives made the first
cut and thought it was "confidential advice," and the president
reviewed it and said, "Oh, no, put this out"?
Fawcett: Oh, that happens with all the
presidents. It goes both ways. You know, reviewing is not a
science, it's an art form. And one day an archivist may feel a lot
more conservative than on another day. You have to use your
judgment, and you have different archivists.
Q: How do the archivists treat first lady's records?
Fawcett: It's interesting because of how that
has evolved, because there is no constitutional role for the first
lady, or any governmental role -- but we all know that the first
lady travels and represents the president, performs at official
functions, plans official social events. And all those functions
have come to be regarded as official governmental records.
It is interesting that we have a FoIA for her schedules [at the
Clinton library]. Her schedules will be, in part, her
representation of the government as the first lady, her travel
with president in an official capacity, but other parts of her
schedule will be completely personal, being a mom, a wife. She
might have lunch with her daughter on her schedule. She could be
getting her hair done, or she could be attending a school concert
for her daughter -- that sort of thing. Those are not presidential
events. I doubt that those [schedule] materials [of a personal
nature] will be open.
Eventually, and it's too soon after President Clinton left
office for this to have happened yet, but eventually presidents
are usually willing to deed over to the National Archives those
personal records that we've had to redact. So, many of them may
eventually be opened under guidelines set for review of personal
It's very much like the records found in libraries where
presidents deeded all their materials to us, that is, presidents
Q: Can you describe the FoIA requests pending at the library
related to Mrs. Clinton?
Fawcett: There are about 30 or so pending
requests for records related to Hillary Clinton. Some of them are
for one or two pages, or one document, or a photograph. Others are
requests for extensive numbers of materials, including several
requests for records related to health care.
Q: How long do you think it will take for archivists there to
complete the process of reviewing those records and have President
Clinton review them, etc.?
Fawcett: I think we are talking about 3 million
or more pages, a substantial number of pages, so undoubtedly those
will not be completed before the Democratic convention [next
August]. There may be some that are done. We will process
incrementally to open as much as we can. I'm not sure what's next
in the queue to come up; I do not know that.
I know what's being processed now at the library are her
schedules, about 10,000 pages of her schedules. That was in
response to a FoIA request, and it is anticipated that the
Archives will complete our part of the process in January.
Q: When did the FoIA request for Mrs. Clinton's schedules come
in, to give everyone an idea how long the Archives process
Fawcett: The records at the Clinton library
became available to FoIA on January 20, 2006. And I think early on
in the process there were FoIA requests submitted for her
schedules. It was fairly early, in the first few months [of 2006].
Since the archivists are processing it now, I must say, it must be
one of the early ones to come in.
Q: How long will it take to process and release a majority of
the Clinton materials?
Fawcett: We have approximately 70 million pages
of textual material.
Q: And e-mails?
Fawcett: We're guessing 48 million pages, and
we're basing that on an average of three pages per message,
because of attachments. So, that leaves us with 118 million pages.
We are working on ways to make our process for processing these
records at the Clinton library a little more efficient, and next
year, we hope to process 200,000 pages.
Q: And how many pages have you processed so far?
Fawcett: About 100,000 pages under FoIA
[Freedom of Information Act]. Now, there's more than that open. I
think we have around a million pages open in the Clinton library.
So, just doing the math on it, you'll see there's a huge time
lag. Now, as the records age, the process becomes a little more
efficient. At the Reagan library, NARA archivists are now
processing about a million pages a year. But not all of those are
presidential records; some of them are other donated collections.
So, the process does get more efficient, especially as you emerge
from the periods of time that are covered by the Presidential
Records Act of 1978 -- that 12-year period after a president
leaves office, when certain restrictions apply.
Q: And why does the processing move faster after that
Fawcett: Some of the categories [exceptions for
certain documents included in the 1978 law] -- the "confidential
advice" category -- no longer applies. In the case of President
Clinton, while there has been considerable easing of the
confidential advice category, it still requires consultation with
the president or his representative to clear documents for public
Q: If President Clinton says, "This is what I want out," does
the sitting president, President Bush, have the authority to review
Fawcett: He can apply his own level of
scrutiny. The [Bush] White House has indicated that any request
that has gone through the former president's review -- I think
they are immediately passing on it. But they certainly have the
right by law to review it. That is part of the statute and the
[2001 Bush] executive order. There certainly hasn't been a claim
of executive privilege by the White House over any Clinton
Q: President Bush's 2001 executive order, which Congress is
now considering revoking with legislation, permits sitting
presidents and previous presidents or their heirs to weigh in on
records release. Can you explain what President Bush ordered?
Fawcett: What the new executive order did that
was different than the previous [Reagan-era] executive order is
that it removed the discretion of the Archivist to make a call
when there was a difference between the former president's view
and the incumbent president on opening records.
[Previously], if the former president wanted to close something
-- wanted to claim executive privilege -- and the current
president did not uphold the claim of executive privilege, it
would be the Archivist's call to make a decision. This meant that
if the former president wanted to dispute that call, he would have
to litigate it.
What the new executive order did was remove that discretion
from the Archivist. And essentially Bush said in that executive
order that, barring the most unusual of circumstances, he would
uphold a former president's claim of privilege, which put the
litigation responsibility onto the researcher, or the requester.
That meant that if someone wanted to dispute the claim of
executive privilege and take it to court, it would be the
responsibility of the requester. And the Archivist was removed
from that equation.
Now, just to close the loop, if the former president wanted to
open something, and the incumbent president claimed privilege --
this is under both executive orders -- it would remain closed,
because the incumbent's claim of privilege trumps everyone else's
claim. Now, we never put any of that to the test because at the
end of 12-year period [in the Presidential Records Act] there was
a hiatus on the opening of records, as the Bush administration
held up everything until they issued the new executive order.
Q: Congress is trying to legislate away that Bush executive
Fawcett: Right, but that has been ongoing for
several years now. There is legislation before Congress that would
basically terminate the requirements of the Bush executive order
and go back to the requirements of the first one.
Q: Under existing law and practice, when the 12-year clock to
open President Clinton's records tolls -- and if his wife is elected
president in 2008 and then re-elected -- his records would be opened
in the first year of her second term in 2013, and both the former
president and the incumbent president, related by marriage, could
hold sway over release of some materials. Does this system really
Fawcett: [Laughs.] It's very similar to the
situation in which President Bush became responsible for the
records of the end of his father's 12-year term. The Presidential
Records Act sets this up, and as it turns out, I don't think the
Presidential Records Act ever anticipated that relatives would be
responsible. But certainly, either a member of the same party or a
member of the opposite party could be in power. As I said, I doubt
that the framers of the Presidential Records Act anticipated that
there would be sons and spouses running for president.
We just follow the law.
Q: Has the Archives recommended any changes related to the
fact that it has encountered this situation, with relatives
responsible for presidential records?
Fawcett: In terms of checks and balances? If we
restored the first executive order and gave the Archivist back his
discretionary authority to mitigate between the incumbent and the
former presidents on claims of executive privilege, that [change]
would certainly assist. There has been a lot of concern about
Bush's executive order, which gave the continuing right of
executive privilege to family members of deceased presidents.
That's also been a major point of concern.
The issue of executive privilege was litigated in regard to the
Nixon papers, and the Supreme Court found that former presidents
had a right of executive privilege. But the Supreme Court
recognized that the privilege diminished over time.
You look at the Presidential Records Act, and this one
modification to consider in the future is, how long is it
necessary to continue noticing a White House? We still notice
[notify for records review] the White House when we want to open
records that go beyond the 12-year period. So we're noticing on
Reagan records. Will we still be noticing on Reagan records in the
year 2030, in the year 2050, in the year 2080? That's a question
that needs to be addressed.
Q: When would you have the clock stop on notification?
Fawcett: There's always a tension in that. And
I think if you have the clock stop too soon, it's difficult for
people to let go. I think you have to come up with a time where
you can really have the clock stop. It's like the executive order
on declassification -- 25 years is really not enough time. The
fact is that 25 years ago, some of the same leaders were in power
that are still in power, and that makes declassification
So if you put a long enough time frame on it, then you can get
out of questioning this. So maybe you could say 50 years is enough
time, or maybe 40 years is enough time. It's unlikely that people
who were prominent in an administration 40 years ago, or 50 years
would still be prominent today, so there's no reason to keep
noticing and worrying about executive privilege claims.
Q: What kind of manpower and resources does the National
Archives have at the Clinton library?
Fawcett: We have 10 archivists there.
Sixty-five percent of their time is spent processing FoIAs.
Somebody might say, "What's the other 35 percent spent on?" There
are special-access requests, there's reference -- there are other
duties that archivists have. There's preparing catalog entries.
But 65 percent of their time is spent processing the actual FoIA
requests. That's the searching, pulling the records, administering
the queues, and reviewing the records.
Q: Would it speed things up if President Clinton broadened the
manpower his designated representative has available to review
records processed by the Archives?
Fawcett: If there were more people on President
Clinton's staff looking at what we're proposing to open, it would
be of incremental help. The big delay is really how long it takes
the Archives to process this material.
We get a request; it's for a broad subject, like health care
reform. That requires going through thousands of files to pluck
out those files from 36,000 boxes that relate to health care. And
then arranging those files, and reviewing them, and removing the
personal information and the other restricted information,
preparing withdrawal sheets, preparing notifications and
submitting them for review.
In addition, there's the search of the electronic mail, and the
electronic mail system is not a system that we can review online.
We have to do searches, using [advanced] search terms just like
people do when they search the Internet, and we get many, many
hits on these things. You have to look at your hits and figure out
how you narrow the search terms to get to the specifics you want.
And then, if there are attachments, there is a process. In order
for the archivists to read the attachments, they have to put them
through a very complex process called dehexification -- don't ask
me to explain it, I just know it's complicated and takes time --
in order for the archivists to even view the attachment on the
screen. Then they have to print all that to paper, put it in a
file, and prepare that for processing. There was e-mail in
previous administrations, but not to the extent of this e-mail.
President Clinton took office in 1993 and it helps to understand
the magnitude of the e-mail if people think about when they first
started using e-mail.
Q: Do all the presidential libraries have similar Archives
staffing, or do you put more archivists on the new libraries?
Fawcett: From about President Johnson on, they
all have about the same number. Some of them have one or two more;
some have one or two less, and it's between eight to 10 archivists
at each of these presidential libraries.
Q: Considering demand, what would ideal staffing look like to
be as rapidly responsive to requests as some people might like?
Fawcett: Well, in an ideal world, I would
probably look at having five or six more archivists in a
presidential library processing records under the Presidential
Records Act. And one of the things that we would attempt to do is
far more systematic processing. Systematic processing is much more
efficient than FoIA. If we can identify those areas where there is
the most research interest, we could put a portion of our staff to
systematically reviewing those files. In other words, they pull a
box off a shelf and start processing that box. They're not pulling
individual files from all over the library.
I would try to do the processing more comprehensively. If you
think of an intersecting line, the FoIA requests would eventually
start to intersect with the records that have already been
systematically processed, so they would be open and available.
That would mean there would be a continuing decline in what people
would have to FoIA, and the staff could get the records out in a
more timely fashion.
We are making some modifications to our system in that we take
a look at our FoIA requests, and we attempt to bundle them, so
that if we have a number of FoIA requests on a specific related
subject, we will bring them together.
For example, say we had a lot of requests on Afghanistan, but
they cover different aspects of Afghanistan, we'd probably try to
identify the majority of files that would cover that subject and
let researchers know that we're processing that systematically,
and then process it that way and notify all the FoIA requesters at
the same time when the material is done. They are likely to get
the material much more quickly that way. But again, it depends on
the subject interest of the FoIAs, and FoIAs really come in based
on what's happening. You know, Hillary Clinton is running for
president, so we have FoIA requests asking for her records.
Q: To clarify, the reason the Archives processes material
based on FoIA requests is because the process is specified in the
law that way?
Fawcett: Right. We have to be responsive to
It will be very hard to ever peddle back against doing FoIA,
and I wouldn't even advocate that we not have FoIA for
presidential records, because that enables people to request what
is of most interest.
It's a resource question. And it's really more about a meeting
of minds among the media, the historians and the others who
request these records to say, "Let's let the Archives process
records in this area, or this area. Let's advise the Archives
about the most important records to process." And then, if we have
sufficient resources and we could still meet our FoIA obligations,
we could do more of the systematic processing. I think we could
make a lot of people much happier about the situation in the
We should do both, and I think that's what we have to be able
to do, and if we do both, then the idea is that we are addressing
systematically the records of most concern without turning off the
ability of people to file individual FoIA requests.
I think what would then happen is that new FoIA requests would
be very specific. They would be requests for a specific document
or a specific file, as opposed to these massive requests for great
quantities of information.
Q: Has the Archives finished cataloging the records in the
Clinton library to know what's there?
Fawcett: We have a pretty good idea of what we
have. Most of the boxes have a folder-title list. Sometimes
they're a little general, like "correspondence," and you wonder
what the correspondence is about. But if you know who the aide is
-- that this was the legislative affairs person -- you have a
pretty good idea of the type of thing that might be in that box.
There are always finer levels of control that we can give to the
records, but we have a fairly good knowledge of where to go and
look for material.
And because archivists are treasure hunters, once you find a
file, it often leads you to other files. So, you might not know
everything when you begin the search, but after you examine some
files, you recognize, "Oh, you know, so-and-so was also working on
this area. I should go check and see what's in his boxes," and
then look at that folder-title list and see if anything jumps out
at you that might have been too general in your initial search.
But now that you know for sure he was working in that area, you
decide to go and check.
Q: Do you discover that some White House officials are
particularly efficient record-keepers and others are spottier?
Fawcett: If they sent the records to the White
House Office of Records Management, we really have fairly good
control over those. It's the records that they might have kept in
their office, strewn across the top of their desk or in their file
drawers that may be more problematic for us to sort through. But
the ones they box up and send to the White House Office of Records
Management have been inventoried. And you know what is a real
controlling factor for doing that? The offices in the White House
are extraordinarily small. The officials can't keep much in their
offices. So they tend to send their records to WHORM, and then the
records management people make lists, and those are the lists we
Q: What about the other libraries covered by the Presidential
Records Act? What's open so far?
Fawcett: At the Reagan library, we have 8
million pages open, out of the 43 million pages. And at the George
H.W. Bush library, we have about 5.5 million open, out of not
quite 34 million pages of records. At the deed-of-gift libraries,
some of the older ones, it is nearly 100 percent. Mainly at Ford,
Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, we're completing the review of
classified files that we're working on releasing. The Ford library
is about 70 percent open. Carter is somewhat less.
Interview Archives ]
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