Friday, January 20, 2006

Clinton Library Prepares to Open Records

ABC News
Clinton Library Prepares to Open Records
On Fifth Anniversary Since His Presidency, Clinton Library to Open Records to Researchers
The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Researchers can start requesting any of the millions of presidential records at Bill Clinton's library Friday, the fifth anniversary of his departure from the White House.

The library has 80 million pages of documents that will be available to scholars through the Freedom of Information Act.

"For someone like me, this is huge," said Margaret Scranton, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas. "This is big because this begins the process of getting those records."

Clinton has already opened several hundred thousand pages to the public, but most were domestic policy documents of White House staffers. The library has also opened its holdings for some federal court cases, including a lawsuit over Jewish property looted by Nazis in World War II.

Library Director David Alsobrook said getting documents would be a lengthy process. With just 10 archivists to handle requests, the library cannot provide documents quickly.

"It could take months. It could take years," Alsobrook said. "You're going to be bitterly disappointed if you're looking for something immediately."

Complicating Friday's release is an executive order signed by President Bush that requires his consent and the former president's before any documents can be released to the public.

Because of privacy and national security concerns, some of the documents will not be available Friday. But under the Presidential Records Act, those papers will be reviewed again in 12 years and more released.

Alsobrook said he does not know how many of those documents will be restricted from public view. "We won't really know until we get the request and get in there," he said.

Supervisory archivist Melissa Walker said the library is not expecting long lines of researchers. Most requests will come through the mail.

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