January 5, 2009

Tricky Bush makes Nixon look open, and honest.

E-mail messages that have gone suspiciously missing are estimated to number in the millions. These could illuminate some of the administration’s darker moments, including the lead-up to the Iraq war, when intelligence was distorted, the destruction of videotapes of C.I.A. torture interrogations, and the vindictive outing of the C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame Wilson.

The deep-sixed history also includes improper business conducted by more than 50 White House appointees via e-mail at the Republican Party headquarters. Historians and archivists are suing the administration. We should be grateful for their efforts. Entire days of e-mail records have turned up conveniently blank at the offices of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Cheney, of course, retreats from sunshine with the wariness of Alucard; he is fighting to the last the transfer of his records to the National Archives, as required by law. He recently argued in court that he “alone may determine what constitutes vice presidential records or personal records.” As in: L’etat c’est Dick.

Modern administrations from Ronald Reagan’s to Bill Clinton’s typically tried to evade at least some disclosure obligations under the public archives law. But the Bush team, from day one, has flouted the requirement to preserve a truthful record, ignoring repeated warnings from the National Archives. In government agencies, the public’s freedom-of-information rights have been maliciously hobbled.

The National Archives is further burdened by the steady and inevitable growth in digital records — a mass 50 times larger than that left eight years ago by the Clinton administration. It will take years to ingest before historians can truly get a handle on what is missing.

Read all about it. We elected this guy? Twice? Isn’t honesty about stuff like this important? Say, more important than marital fidelity, even?

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