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National Archives Reticent About Broadening Mission

National Archives Reticent About Broadening Mission, by Dan Friedman, CongressDaily, Jun. 2, 2008. [subscription required].

The National Archives (NARA) is being put in an awkward position. Viewed as nonpartisan and professional, it is being tasked by Congress with new enforcement duties. Late last year, a new law passed that set up an “Office of Government Information Services” within the NARA to help set federal Freedom of Information Act policy. Another bill that is expected to pass the House would give NARA a new role requiring NARA to monitor White House e-mail archiving. This would change NARA’s role from that of passively receiving records to actively monitoring and enforcing rules. National Archives Inspector General Paul Brachfeld said that “NARA traditionally has not viewed itself as an enforcement entity but rather one that focuses upon collegiality and relationships.”

From the article:

Chafing at Bush administration secrecy, congressional Democrats are handing the National Archives and Records Administration new jobs promoting government transparency. Officials at the records agency appear to be balking at taking on unfunded mandates beyond their traditional role. If Congress wants the Archives to become open-government cops, archivists may prefer to remain librarians. “They have always had a narrow view of their mandate and have never been particularly inclined to seek any expansion,” said Patrice McDermott of, a coalition of groups urging government transparency. “They see their mission as providing access to historical records. They see [overseeing] contemporaneous records as a shift.”

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