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The Constitution isn’t the only Document Bush Wants to Go Away

by Al Uthman

There’s been a lot of heavy news in the past couple of weeks, especially regarding the worsening conflict in Iraq, and of course the disastrously damning photo evidence of the abuse and torture of Iraqi detainees at the hands of American soldiers and "contractors’ (once known as mercenaries). Private Lynddie England has become our new Chandra Levy, yet another face that we will see and see again and again as 24-hour news channels struggle desperately to wring every possible ratings surge and wrest every angle they can from her story, despite having very little to go on but the inflammatory pictures themselves.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been frantically keening his head away from the chopping block, while Bush and Cheney defend him from a growing chorus of calls for his resignation, and not just from the left. In fact, had Rumsfeld resigned in a swift and responsive manner, it might actually have done something to alleviate the damage, and to acknowledge the severity of the offense. Instead, if he resigns now, it will certainly be a case of too little, too late, just as it was with Bush’s obviously poll-driven apology, inexplicably delivered to the King of Jordan(?), a day too late—after his interview on Middle Eastern TV, when it, too might have counted for something.

Then there’s the whole thing with Scalia and Cheney. The 9/11 panel. Colin Powell’s well-leaked dissatisfaction with his colleagues. Bush’s dodging on his National Guard record. The policy reversal that has us supporting the universally despised Baathists in Iraq. Etc, etc, and so on. It’s really all too much to keep track of, and it’s easy to let a story or two slip through the cracks unnoticed.

Case in point: while all the turmoil rages on, Bush has quietly set the wheels in motion to advance the cause of Executive government secrecy for years to come.

Last April, Bush submitted to the Senate his nomination of Allan Weinstein for the relatively obscure position of national Archivist, the man in charge of Presidential documents, the one who presides over their timely release—or not. Not very surprisingly, The first of Bush’s father’s records are scheduled to be declassified next January, after an election that doesn’t look quite so rosy for Bush as it did a few months ago.

The implications are very clear, and even the mainstream press has characterized this move as an obvious stalling tactic. The Washington Post quoted Timothy A. Slavin, a state archive official, as saying that Weinstein would have "tremendous power to delay access by stalling."

It’s just another chapter in Bush’s history of keeping his business from the public he purports to serve. In his book, Worse than Watergate, John Dean lays out how then-Governor Bush illegally had his records shrink-wrapped and sent to his father’s Presidential library at Texas A&M immediately upon being appointed President. This he did without legally required consultation with the state’s libraries and archives commission.

In another typically brazen move toward greater secrecy, Bush issued an executive order in late 2001 which gives a sitting President veto power over the release of any former President’s documents, even if the former President disagrees. This decree was hotly protested by many, including historians and archivists, and their larger organizations. The move essentially reverses the 1978 Presidential Records Act, considered by many to be an illegal overshot of executive authority, but he did manage to stem the flow of highly anticipated Reagan documents from coming to the fore.

Now Bush is trying to make sure that America never finds out what these guys were really up to. Once again, he is breaking the law, which requires him to provide Congress with adequate reasons for seeking to replace the current Archivist, a Clinton appointee named John Carlin.

Bush is said to be "fast-tracking" Weinstein, trying to get him in before the elections in November. It’s a good time for him to be doing it, while everyone is preoccupied with the scene overseas, and paying this issue little mind.

But this is not an issue to let fall through the cracks. Let’s not forget that, in addition to his father, the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations contained many faces still in the White House today. And it’s dead certain that Weinstein will serve to hold up the declassification of any and all documents the current administration is producing, otherwise he simply wouldn’t be their choice.

The obsessive secrecy of the Bush-Cheney camp is at least as revealing as whatever it is they are so desperately hiding. There really can be no other logical conclusion than that the major players here have been even naughtier than has already been established—and I shudder to think just how nefarious the activities we don’t already know about must be for them to play this game. Nobody likes secrecy of this order, Republican or Democrat—only those in positions of power, who abuse that power, stand to benefit from it. It’s not about political or ideological views; it can only be about covering up past misdeeds. Of particular concern, it is rumored, is the release of the 9/11 commission records.

Weinstein’s nomination is subject to Senatorial review, barring any further law-negating executive orders. We can only cross our fingers and hope like hell that the Senate will find it’s teeth and reject Weinstein as the obvious shill that he is. Let’s hope that at least they are paying attention.

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