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George W. Bush et les archives
White House Delays Release of Advice to Reagan
By NEIL A. LEWIS
WASHINGTON, June 8 — The White House is delaying the release of thousands of pages of old presidential records that detail the confidential advice given Ronald Reagan by his aides, some of whom are now prominent officials in the Bush administration.
The records were to be disclosed on Jan. 21 under the Presidential Records Act, adopted after Watergate to deal with issues created by President Richard M. Nixon's assertion that he owned his administration's papers.
But after President Bush took office, the White House counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, delayed the documents' release until June 21 so that they could be reviewed. And a White House spokeswoman, Anne Womack, said today that the administration had recently arranged for another extension, until Aug. 31 at the earliest.
The Presidential Records Act, made law in 1978, provided that documents dealing with White House aides' advice to a president were to be released 12 years after the end of his administration. The Reagan administration is the first to which the law applies.
But under an executive order signed in the closing days of Mr. Reagan's presidency, the incumbent administration at the time of the scheduled release may delay it in order to review the documents and so determine whether to invoke executive privilege to prevent their disclosure outright.
Ms. Womack, the Bush spokeswoman, said today that "the reason for the extension is to conduct a legal review of the documents at the Justice Department."
"We want to be sure that the Presidential Records Act is implemented correctly," she said. "We are setting a precedent for future administrations."
Some historians who had eagerly awaited the documents question the White House's motives. Prof. Hugh Davis Graham, who teaches history and political science at Vanderbilt University, said the circumstances surrounding this first release under the law were unusual.
A number of Reagan aides whose advice would be disclosed by the documents, Professor Graham noted, are now principal members of the Bush administration. Among them are Colin L. Powell, who is now the secretary of state and was a member of Mr. Reagan's national security team; Mitch Daniels, the budget director, who was Mr. Reagan's political director; and Lawrence B. Lindsey, the chief White House economist, who served as an economic adviser to Mr. Reagan.
In addition, President Bush's father was Mr. Reagan's vice president and thus an adviser. Further, under the law a decision on the presidential documents of the elder Mr. Bush is due in four years.
Ms. Womack said the delay had nothing to do with those matters.
The Reagan documents are estimated to be in the tens of thousands of pages and are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration.
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