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Bush aides move to put hold on some papers of past presidents

By Kelly Wallace, CNN White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House has drafted an executive order that would allow the current administration to withhold release of presidential papers from a previous administration, even if the former president wanted to make those available to the public.

Ari Fleischer, President Bush's spokesman, said the goal of the executive action is to "provide a safety valve" if any national security issues might arise by releasing past presidential records.

For instance, Fleischer said there may be intelligence concerns the previous administration was not aware of when it decided to allow the release of its records, or the national security situation may have changed since the decision to release such records was made.

Fleischer said the order was "in the works" before the Sept. 11 attacks and is designed to protect "national security."

Administration officials said the president could sign the order as early as Thursday. The move was first reported in Thursday's "Washington Post."

The order stems from a decision by the Bush administration earlier this year to block the release of almost 70,000 pages of confidential communications between President Ronald Reagan and his top advisers, that the Reagan library wanted to make public.

Reporters hammered questions at Fleischer during his morning off-camera news briefing, press, asking whether this move was a way to protect embarrassing information from being released that could affect officials, who serve in the Bush administration, and served in the prior Bush and Reagan administrations.

Fleischer dismissed such suggestions and said the goal is to take into account security concerns that someone who left office 12 years ago "might not be aware of."



 
 
 
 



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