« 이전계속 »
Archivist of the United States it was concluded that the
authority of House Resolution 288 expired with the 83rd
The only way researchers could obtain access
henceforth was by applying to the Clerk for permission.
Clerk continued to grant access to records of quite recent
In a 1971 letter to the Archivist, however, the Clerk
reasserted the authority of the 1953 House Resolution 288.
insisted that researchers wishing to view certain
categories of records, such as those less than 50 years old,
be required to seek specific authorization.
By the mid
1970s the practical effect of this was to deny access to all
House records less than 50 years old--records that in some
cases had been openly viewed by many researchers.
Let me therefore outline the current procedures for
access to those records that are more than 50 years old,
that is documents that date from 1789 to 1936.
researcher must obtain the written authorization of the
Clerk of the House for that purpose.
This procedure is
designed to permit the clerk to exercise the authority
vested in him by House Resolution 288, 83rd Congress.
resolution permits the Clerk to release documents that are
at least 50 years old "except when he determines that the
use of such records would be detrimental to the public
The Clerk discharges his responsibilities by
requiring researchers to file a formal written request
asking permission to view the files.
In response to the
researcher's request, the clerk writes a letter to the
researcher with a copy to the National Archives, giving his approval. We are unable to find a single instance where the
Clerk has denied access to records that are at least 50
adjudicate the cases of Southerners who lost property at the
hands of Northern forces during the Civil War.
people whose ancestors filed claims before the Commission
which reviewed over 20,000 claims.
Typically a researcher
asks if we have a file for his ancestor.
indicates the number of pages in the file and the cost to obtain a copy, and says that before we can provide copies of
the file, the researcher must obtain the written
authorization of the Clerk.
Because these records are well
over 50 years old, the Clerk always approves the request.
What happens if a researcher comes to the National
Archives to view records of the House, unaware that he first
had to clear the request with the clerk?
In this instance
it is, of course, impractical for the researcher to write a letter and wait for a response. We ask the researcher to
use one of our office telephones to call the Clerk's office
to secure verbal clearance to view the records.
staff members have cooperated in this arrangement, but
insist that after the fact the researcher submit a formal
request to view the records.
In these cases,
the Clerk is theoretically ensuring
that House records older than 50 years that are "detrimental
to the public interest" are not released to the public.
in practice no one from the Clerk's office examines the
records in question.
This procedure is pro forma and
wasteful of time and money.
In effect the Clerk's office
trusts the archivists at the National Archives to protect
the public interest and the records of the House.
permission to view 50 year old records is a throw back to an
earlier age, when access to public records was secured
through connections in Washington.
To a public that is
accustomed to viewing the records of their Government as a right, the House's practices are seriously antiquated and
Members may view House records regardless of their age,
under the auspices of the appropriate Committee.
enterprising researcher contacts the Committee, or contacts
someone in his Congressman's office, who contacts someone on
The Committee borrows the records from the
Archives, and the researcher is permitted to view the
documents in the Committee's offices.
This is what
archivists call "privileged access."
Most Americans cannot
see House records less than 50 years old, but those who have
We would like to see this practice end,
and most of it would if the House had access rules more
attuned to modern information policies.
The National Archives has been asked what restrictions
we see as being appropriate for the House records:
restrictions that will protect the work of the House,
provide citizens with access to information they seek, and
relieve both the clerk and the Archives of burdensome and
We suggest that the House look to the
Senate for guidance and experience with a 20 and 50-year
In 1980, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 474,
96th Congress, 2nd Session, that established a 20-year rule
on most of its records in the National Archives.
Investigative records relating to individuals and containing
personal data, personnel records, and records of executive
nominations not previously made public are closed for 50
All other Senate records are open after 20 years,
unless á committee establishes some other restriction.
In the 6 years since that resolution was passed the
National Archives has provided Senate records to researchers
without any problems.
The public can see Senate records
well into the era of the Viet Nam war, the civil rights
movement, and the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.
Two Senate committees moved to open even more recent
The Rules Committee established a restriction
23-542 - 91 - 3
statement for Sam Ervin's Watergate Committee records that
is very similar to the Freedom of Information Act permitting
access to most of that important set of records.
earlier this year, Senator Lugar, Chairman of the Foreign
had no crises, leaks, or "boomerangs" when allowing the
public to see these records.
We do note far more interest
and activity by the research public in the records of the
The Senate 20/50-year rule is only one of several
access regulations with which we work at the National
Archives, but House and Senate records are similar in
content and attract similar types of researchers.
and will work with any set of regulations the House of
Representatives establishes for its records.
protect the public interest and the rights and privileges of
Archivists at the National Archives have an exemplary
record in protecting the records of the United States
Justice William Brennan in his opinion for the
Supreme Court in Nixon v. Administrator ruled against the
former President's privacy claim stating "the unblemished
record of the archivists for discretion" would protect the
privacy of the former President (4330.9.465).