Cheney Ordered to Preserve Records

This afternoon U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the office of vice president Dick Cheney to preserve all records related to his office and the performance of his duties as the case proceeds. The order came in a case organized by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, together with the AHA, the Organization of American Historians, and the Society of American Archivists, and historians Stanley Kutler and Martin Sherwin.

In her opinion, Judge Kollar-Kottelly observed that she felt this order was necessary because it appeared the defendants in the case—the Office of the Vice President and the National Archives—were trying to narrowly define the records that should be covered by the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and to avoid specifying how the records would be transferred to the Archives.

The AHA joined the case out of concern—given past arguments from the vice president’s office—that records from the office would not be properly preserved. Judge Kollar-Kottelly’s opinion seems to validate that concern, as she observed that “in the absence of a preliminary injunction, all records potentially covered by the PRA as a matter of law, will not be preserved through the termination of this litigation.”

The full opinion and order are available on the CNN web site.

Update (September 24, 2008): The case took another step forward yesterday, as U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly allowed depositions (http://www.citizensforethics.org/node/34258) of David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and Nancy Smith, Director of the Presidential Records Staff at the National Archives and Records Administration. The depositions are needed to discern which records will be transferred to the Archives, and what arrangements have been made. According to Anne Weisman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the lead attorney in the case, “We are hopeful that these depositions will allow us to finally uncover whether these important records are being preserved or deliberately lost to future generations.”

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