The Association of American Publishers, PEN American Center and the Authors Guild are co-sponsoring a panel discussion organized in response to an executive order by President Bush, which the three organizations claim will limit access to presidential papers by authors, journalists and historians.
The panel, "Controlling History: Presidential Historians Discuss the Craft of Biography and the New Limits on Archival Access," will be held April 10 at 7 p.m. at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan. The panel will feature historians Robert Caro, Richard Reeves and Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who will discuss the effects of the Bush executive order on the work of historians and authors.
The panel follows the filing of an amicus brief by AAP February 28 in support of a lawsuit brought by Public Citizen, a public interest group, in an effort to challenge Bush's executive order. The AAP's brief calls the Bush executive order "a real substantial and immediate threat... to the integrity of the historical record and to the public interest."
In November 2001 Bush issued executive order 13,233, which limits access to presidential records and gives incumbent and former presidents, vice-presidents and even family members of deceased presidents the right to veto the release of presidential records.
According to Judy Platt, spokesperson for AAP, the executive order effectively blocks the Presidential Records Act of 1978, enacted at the end of the Nixon administration, which made presidential records government property and makes them available to the public 12 years after a president leaves office. The AAP even goes so far as to claim that the Bush order comes just as documents from the Reagan presidency are about to be released. Platt told PW that many officials who served under Reagan are now in the Bush administration. "It's no coincidence," said Platt, "that 68,000 pages of Reagan-era documents are about to be released that will likely embarrass members of the present administration."
The AAP is also working with the Organization of American Historians and the American Association of University Professors to organize an exhibition of books that it claims could not have been researched had the Bush order been in place. The exhibition will open with a press conference on April 12 at 11 a.m. at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C., during the OAH's annual meeting, which runs April 12 14.