Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gonzo knows archives - not!

Historians hope Obama will undo records order, in which Alberto Gonzales insults, and displays his ignorance of, the entire archives profession*:

"Let's say a former president dies," said former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was White House counsel when the order was issued. "Who is in a position then to make the decision with respect to privilege?

"One could say leave it to the (national) archivist. Why is the archivist a better person to make that kind of determination, necessarily?" he said. "You may have a family member who could be totally objective, as objective as an archivist. An archivist might be predisposed to releasing everything, irrespective of impact on (national) security, irrespective of other damage to other kinds of issues and matters."

Actually, archivists routinely deal with matters of privacy and confidentiality, and NARA especially deals routinely with records that touch on national security. Archivists do have a bias toward making information available, but they're not idiots. Some records must be kept confidential and that is part of an archivist's job; here at my library, I had to help scuttle plans for displaying certain gifted items because they contain private medical information. Would have been nice to display the documents, sure, but we can't and I knew it. I was trained to know it - that's how basic it is. Why is the archivist a better person to make that kind of determination? Because it's basic to the archives profession and archivists are professionals, that's why.

[PS. Maarja Krusten, at the archives listserv, also points out the absurdity in imagining that the President's heirs would have any sort of security clearance to be looking at top secret documents, anyway.]

*Granted, I should lighten up; it's not like anyone's really taking Alberto Gonzales seriously these days.

1 comment:

James Hanley said...

No, don't lighten up. He truly deserves to be kicked when he's down.