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Mystery Surrounds Archivist's Firing

Why did President Bush give U.S. Archivist John W. Carlin the boot? Carlin, who was asked to resign last December, says he was not given a reason. But White House critics suggest that Bush may have wanted a replacement who would help keep his or his father's sensitive presidential records under wraps, The Washington Post reported on July 26.

Many of President George H.W. Bush's confidential records are scheduled to become public in January under the Presidential Records Act of 1978. But Bush Jr. issued an executive order in 2001 that "establishes new hurdles to access such records," the Post said. The order allows a former president or vice president, or the incumbent president, to block release of documents by claiming "executive privilege." Public Citizen, representing a coalition of historians, journalists and public interest groups, is challenging that order in federal court. The issue remains unresolved, but the White House earlier responded to the lawsuit by allowing 68,000 pages of Reagan materials and several thousand pages of Bush vice presidential materials to be made public.

Bush's nominee for Archivist, historian Allen Weinstein, said he supports the Presidential Records Act but added that if confirmed by the Senate he would be obliged to defend Bush's executive order against the lawsuit, the Post reported.

Meanwhile, Clinton appointee Carlin remains in office and has said he will formally resign when the new Archivist is confirmed and sworn in. That might be a while, as Senate Democrats are asking some pointed questions about the whole affair. Democrats on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee insist that Bush explain his reason for firing Carlin.

Click here for more information on the lawsuit.

Posted 07-26-2004 3:16 PM EDT

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Resurrected Records

Payroll records involving President Bush's disputed National Guard service, which the Pentagon previously said had been destroyed, have been founded and released to the news media, the New York Times reported on July 24. On June 25, responding to Freedom of Information requests by several news organizations, the Pentagon said the records were accidentally destroyed several years ago during a period when the Defense Department was trying was salvage aging microfilm.

Now they records are back. But the Times reports that the records do little to clear up lingering questions over whether Bush fulfilled his Guard commitment between May 1972 and May 1972. The records show that Bush did not perform service in July, August and September of 1972, confirming what other records already showed.

"Two other sets of payroll records, previously released, appear to conflict over whether Mr. Bush earned any service credits at all in 1972, but a White House spokeswoman attributed the discrepancy to accounting procedures," the Times wrote.

Posted 07-26-2004 3:07 PM EDT

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Administration Says No to UN Auditors

The Bush administration is withholding information from international auditors about how $1.4 billion in contracts for work in Iraq was awarded to Halliburton without competitive bidding, according to a July 16 story in The Washington Post and wire reports.

The International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), composed of representatives of the UN, World Bank and IMF, was established in 2003 to make sure Iraq's oil revenues were managed properly during the U.S. occupation. But the U.N. representative says the U.S. has repeatedly stonewalled requests to turn over internal audits, including those pertaining to three contracts awarded to Halliburton, the oil services company headed by VP Dick Cheney from 1995 to 2000. The U.S. also has not produced lists of other companies that were awarded no-bid contracts in Iraq.

The IAMB has released an audit that sharply criticizes the management of billions of dollars in Iraq oil revenue by the U.S.-led coalition. The audit uncovered inadequate accounting, high turnover among responsible officials and a failure to ensure competitive bidding - conditions the IAMB said would make it easy for fraudulent activities to take place.

Posted 07-20-2004 10:02 AM EDT

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Records? What records?

The Bush administration's obsession with secrecy might, just might, become an issue in the presidential campaign---at least if the Kerry campaign has anything to do with it. On July 13, John Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, wrote a letter to Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman in response to Mehlman's request for a tape of a Kerry fund-raising event. Cahill responded that she would not consider the request until the White House agree to make public a variety of documents withheld from the public.

"The fact is that the nation has a greater interest in seeing several documents made public relating to the President's performance in office and personal veracity that the White House has steadfastly refused to release," Cahill wrote.

Those records include: "military records that would actually prove he fulfilled the terms of his military service"; all correspondence between the Defense Department and Halliburton regarding the no-bid contract awarded to VP Cheney's former company; the records pertaining to Cheney's energy task force "so that the country can learn what lobbyists and special interests wrote the White House energy policy; correspondence between the White House and pharmaceutical industry regarding the Medicare Rx drug bill; and finally, the "remaining documents" about the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq.

In closing, Cahill noted that "today marks one year since Administration sources leaked the identity of a covert CIA agent to Bob Novak in an effort to retaliate against a critic of the Administration."

Posted 07-19-2004 2:42 PM EDT

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Washington Post: Current Classification System Needs Overhaul

The system the intelligence community uses to classify information needs to be examined to prevent blatant abuse of power, according to The Washington Post. With the current system, no one can have confidence that decisions are being made solely for national security.

"It's time to consider an alternative mechanism that could balance the legitimate competing needs for secrecy and openness without suffering from the conflict of interest inherent in the existing system. One solution is on the front end: to reduce the rampant overclassification of information in the first place," a Washington Post July 13, 2004 editorial said.

Posted 07-13-2004 5:24 PM EDT

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High Court Allows Cheney to Keep Task Force Records Secret

The U.S. Supreme Court's 7-2 decision means that the White House won't immediately be required to turn over records that would show what role industry lobbyists played in helping to formulate the Bush administration's national energy policy, various newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported. A federal district judge had earlier ruled that Vice President Dick Cheney had to provide energy task force records to two public interest groups that sued to gain access to them. The case was sent back to the courts to more carefully weigh the executive branch's arguments for shielding information from the public. The High Court's ruling sets the stage for months or years of additional legal wrangling which will ensure that the documents are kept secret at least past the November election.

"The decision is a partial win for Mr. Cheney, who gets to keep the task force's records secret while litigation continues. But it also casts the courts in an odd light," because the Court seems to be giving the Bush administration more leeway than its predecessor, a Post editorial said.

Posted 06-25-2004 1:05 PM EDT

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Public Citizen Sues Attorney General Ashcroft

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO), represented by Public Citizen, sued Attorney General John Ashcroft and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today over the DOJ's reclassification of information that alleges corruption, incompetence and cover-ups in an FBI translation unit. The lawsuit asks the court to find the agency's May reclassification of information unlawful and unconstitutional and require it to declassify the information. The information relates to allegations made by whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI linguist who was fired after reporting to superiors numerous instances of wrongdoing in the FBI translation unit where she worked.

This information was presented by the FBI during two unclassified 2002 briefings held by the Senate Judiciary Committee and was referenced in letters from U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley to DOJ officials. The letters were posted on the senators' Web sites but were removed after the DOJ

Posted 06-23-2004 3:27 PM EDT

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AP Sues for Access to Bush National Guard Records

Seeking access to all records pertaining to President Bush's military service, the Associated Press sued the U.S. Department of Defense and the Air Force today, the AP reported. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in New York, seeks access to a copy of Bush's complete personnel file. The file is on microfilm at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin. The Bush administration said it has released all records of Bush's military service, but there are questions about whether the file the White House released earlier this year is incomplete, the AP said.

In April, the AP requested in writing that Bush sign a waiver of his right to keep his records confidential, but the White House had not responded, the AP reported.

Posted 06-23-2004 3:21 PM EDT

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Cloak of Secrecy Hinders Oversight of Biotech Industry

A federal law that protects the trade secrets of biotech companies, which produce controversial genetically modified crops, also shields the industry from oversight, according to The Sacramento Bee. "The cloak of secrecy" employed by companies is the so-called "CBI" -- short for confidential business information, the Bee reported. Biotech companies use CBI to redact large portions of applications for experimental crops, making it difficult to find out when companies break rules designed to prevent introducing disease or infestation to an area and the spread of biotech genes beyond test plots.

The National Academy of Sciences has warned that the lack of transparency in biotechnology is so pervasive that public confidence in federal oversight could be undermined by the companies' ability to withhold vast amounts of information, the newspaper reported. (The article was one in a five-part series about the biotech industry.)

Posted 06-14-2004 4:02 PM EDT

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Newsday: Bush Should Release Torture Memos

Congress and the American people deserve to know why and to what extent the White House was "exploring the boundaries of the laws against torture," a (New York) Newsday editorial said. It called on President Bush to release administration memos that reportedly offered a rationale for torturing terrorist operatives and discussed ways around U.S. and international bans on torture. In the wake of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the Bush administration "should release the memos and any other documents that would shed light on its thinking and policy on torture," the newspaper said.

"Questions about tortured prisoners are too integral to the nation's faith in the rule of law and too damaging to its image abroad to be shrouded in secrecy," Newsday said.

Posted 06-10-2004 4:22 PM EDT

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