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Clinton denies delaying release of husband's documents

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Clinton campaign says the former president has not blocked any releases
  • Sen. Clinton's rivals accuse her of delaying release of Clinton Library documents
  • Democratic front-runner says National Archives makes decisions on documents
  • Clinton Library holds more than 78 millions pages and 20 million e-mails
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton's rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination are accusing her of delaying the release of records from her husband's administration, something the front-runner and President Clinton have denied.

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Fireworks mark the opening of the Clinton LIbrary in 2004. Library documents are becoming a campaign issue.

"We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history. And not releasing, I think, these records at the same time, Hillary, that you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, charged during a presidential debate Tuesday.

But Clinton, who represents New York, said the release of the records are not up to her or former President Clinton but the archivists at the National Archives

"The archives is moving as rapidly as the archives moves," Clinton said when asked about the documents by the debate moderator, NBC's Tim Russert. "They are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that."

The Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, contains 78 million pages of documents and 20 million e-mail messages, said spokeswoman Susan Cooper.

The library has about 300 outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests for Clinton documents, totaling 10 million pages, and has six archivists to handle them, Cooper said.Video Watch Clinton answer critics about release of papers »

"Each request requires thousands of pages to look through to see if they're responsive." Cooper said. "Those that are may be classified and may deal with personal privacy, so we're up against an enormous task."

"The first request was on UFOs, and we can't decide which one to handle first," Cooper added.

Newsweek magazine reported that one-half of 1 percent of the documents have been released to the public so far.

President Clinton also plays a role in the process. An executive order signed by President Bush in 2001 allows Clinton and other former presidents to review material before it is released by the archive.

According to Newsweek, the Clintons asked in a 2002 letter that "confidential communications involving legal issues and advice" and "communications directly between the president and the first lady" be withheld.

Longtime aide Bruce Lindsey is in charge of document reviews for the Clintons. According to the Clinton Library, his reviews take, on average, eight months.

Jay Carson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, tells CNN that, so far, President Clinton has not challenged the release of any documents, and "no records have been withheld from release by Bill Clinton."

About 26,000 pages are awaiting review by Clinton's aides, according to the archives.

Obama is a co-sponsor of a bill before the Senate that would revoke the right of former presidents to review documents before they are released. Clinton is not a sponsor.

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Whatever the reason documents are not being released, political observers said Clinton's opponents could use the issue to raise doubts about the former first lady.

"Candidates who conceal things run into the problem of people believing 'where there's smoke there's fire,' " said Roger Simon of the Politico. "People ask, logically, 'Why are you hiding this stuff if it isn't important? Why not just release everything?' " E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN producer Dugald McConnell contributed to this report.

All About Hillary ClintonBarack ObamaNational Archives and Records Administration

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