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How to Find out the Hidden Secrets of the Bush Administration

By Charles Homans, Washington Monthly. Posted December 1, 2008.

Treat Cheney's offices like a crime scene, create a 9/12 Commission, and declassify the Bush papers -- the public deserves to know.

In March 2001, U.S. Archivist John W. Carlin received a letter from Alberto Gonzales, then counsel to the newly inaugurated president George W. Bush. It concerned an important deadline that was looming -- one that Bush owed to Richard Nixon.

In 1974, Congress ordered a lockdown on all records kept by the Nixon White House, afraid that the outgoing president would try to wipe out the paper trail of his disastrous second term and chastened by the recent destruction of decades' worth of FBI files by the late director J. Edgar Hoover's loyal secretary. That order was expanded four years later into a law requiring that all presidents' papers -- everything from briefings to personal notes and everyday communications between the president, vice president, and their staffers -- be handed over to the National Archives twelve years after their terms ended for eventual public release. Ronald Reagan was the first chief executive to whom the Presidential Records Act applied, and his papers were due to be turned over to Carlin at the beginning of Bush's term.

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