Publication Date

October 1, 2000

Perspectives Section


Public Comment Needed on Proposed National Archives FOIA Rule

On August 23, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register designed to revise and reorganize the agency’s regulations that govern access to NARA archival holdings (36 CFR, Part 1254) and NARA’s own operational records (36 CFR, Part 1250) through the Freedom of Information Act. The proposed rule also incorporates changes mandated by new provisions in the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996. The proposed rule may be accessed via the GPO web site at (scroll down to subtitle “National Archives and Records Administration” and “Proposed Rule”) Immediate action is needed by the historical/ archival community as comments are due by October 23, 2000.

End of Session Pending Legislation of Interest

The NCC attempts to track legislation of interest to historians, archivists, and the related professional disciplines. In addition to monitoring a half dozen appropriations bills that will be reported on in the next NCC Advocacy Update, there are hundreds of bills introduced each Congress that could have an impact on our community. While the NCC tries to monitor and keep you updated on the most important of them, the following bills may be of interest to readers with various special interests. If additional information is desired on any of the bills, don’t hesitate to drop the author a line.


National Recording Preservation Act

The National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 (H.R. 4846)—introduced on July 13, 2000, by Rep. William M. Thomas (R-Calif.), the chair of the House Administration Committee—passed the House on July 25 and was referred to the Senate. The legislation has been placed on the legislative calendar for possible action this Congress.

The legislation has several major provisions: It directs the Librarian of Congress to establish the National Recording Registry for the purpose of maintaining and preserving sound recordings that are “culturally, historically. or aesthetically significant”; it also establishes a National Sound Recording Preservation Program within the Library of Congress and operates a National Recording Preservation Board—an appointed body charged to review and recommend the nominations for the National Recording Registry. Finally. the bill authorizes the establishment of a National Recording Preservation Foundation—a federally chartered, nonprofit, charitable corporation that would raise funds for preservation and public access to the nation’s sound recording heritage. The bill is supported by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and other recording industry organizations and by the Library of Congress. Provided this bill does not get lost in the last minute legislative shuffle, House supporters hope to see the legislation pass the Senate through a suspension of the rules.

Federal Information Policy Act of 2000

Shortly before the congressional Labor Day recess, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) introduced legislation (H.R. 5024) that would empower the federal government with tools the representative thinks are necessary to better coordinate and manage information technology policies government- wide. The Federal Information Policy Act of 2000 creates an Office of Information Policy within the executive office of the president. It is Davis’s hope that the collective result of his 128-page bill will “force the federal government to put its act in order and become a reliable public partner for protecting America’s information highways.”

Among other things, the legislation establishes a federal chief information officer and charges this individual to establish a comprehensive framework for implementing mandatory information security standards. The legislation has been referred to the House Government Reform Committee; no significant action on the legislation is expected until the next Congress. To view the legislation, log into the Library of Congress’s web site THOMAS at enter H.R. 5024 at the “by bill number” prompt.

Rosie the Riveter

Senate and House versions of legislation that establishes the Rosie the Riveter /World War II Home Front National Historical Park (H.R. 4063 and S. 2294) in Richmond, California, have been quietly making their way through the respective legislative bodies over the last few months. The House passed its version of the legislation introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, Historic Preservation, and Recreation has conducted a hearing on Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s version of the legislation.

The new historical park seeks to preserve sites, structures, and areas located in the vicinity of Richmond, California, that are associated with the industrial, governmental, and citizen efforts that led to victory in World War II. According to the National Park Service (NPS) testimony, Richmond is an ideal spot for the park as it “has a critical mass of intact historical structures … and its home front experience is nationally recognized and is well-documented.”

As presently crafted, the NPS would administer the site and would own lands in fee and less-than fee simple (including leaseholds) . The NPS would also be able to accept donations of certain lands and structures but it would administer much of the site through cooperative agreement with other entities. The NPS is charged to operate an education center for the purpose of educating the American public on the significance of the site and on the broader story of the World War II home front. The legislation recognizes that survivors who worked on the home front are in their seventies and eighties and hence an oral history program is authorized: Section 5 of the legislation authorizes “such funds as may be necessary to conduct oral histories” and to carry out other provisions of the act.

The major difference between the House and Senate measures relates to the matching requirements: S. 2294 requires a 50 percent match while H.R. 4063 requires a 100 percent nonfederal match. Differences between the two bills are expected to be resolved resulting in the creation of a new historical park by the end of this congressional session.

Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site

After many months of discussion and meetings with Native American groups and other interested parties, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) has introduced into the Senate legislation authorizing the establishment of the Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site in Colorado (S. 2950). The legislation was introduced on July 27 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

The site is designed to recognize and memorialize “the hallowed ground on which hundreds of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians were massacred by members of the Colorado militia” in 1864. As introduced, the legislation authorizes the National Park Service to enter into agreement with willing sellers in an effort to secure lands within a 12,470 acreboundary. The legislation recognizes that without condemnation authority acquisition of land could take years but several willing sellers who own property within thecore of the site’s proposed legislative boundary have offered to sell in recent months. Due to the controversial nature of this legislation (and since it has not had a hearing in the Senate or House) final action on the bill will probably wait until the next Congress.

CIA Compelled to Disclose Records

In early August the National Security Archive (NSA) won a partial summary judgement in a U.S. District Court against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The court’s decision establishes a new precedent that effectively challenges that agency’s traditional policy of refusing to “neither confirm or deny” the existence of certain CIA-prepared information when responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

In this instance, back in May 1995, the NSA filed a FOIA request for the biographies of nine former communist leaders of Eastern European countries (seven of whom are now dead). Drawing upon the so-called “Glomar” claim (named after a lawsuit over access to records relating to the ship Glomar Explorer in which the CIA won the right to “neither confirm or deny” information when responding to information sought under a FOIA request) the CIA refused to confirm or deny the existence of the biographies. Consequently, the NSA filed suit in May 1999 in an effort to compel the agency to release the information.

In the court’s ruling, Judge Kollar-Kotelly found that the CIA had already admitted the existence of the biographies in a detailed article declassified in 1994 and hence could not claim the information did not exist. The judge found, “To hold that the CIA has the authority to deny information that it has already admitted would violate the core principles of FOIA without providing any conceivable national security benefit.” While the decision does not completely nullify the CIA’s ability to use the Glomar claim when responding to future FOIA requests by historians, journalists, and others, it does establish a precedent that could help to compel that agency to be more responsive, particularly when it can be established that the item being sought via a FOIA request does exist.

National Research Council Report Chides Library

A National Academy of Sciences report commissioned by the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, warns that the Library of Congress could become a “book museum” if the library doesn’t improve its ability to respond to the Internet and other new technologies. While the 207-page report entitled “LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress” commends the LC for its National Digital Library Program, it calls on the library to acquire and preserve works such as web sites that are “born digital.” The report prepared by the National Research Council (the chief operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and Engineering) also takes the library to task for not being “sufficiently involved in the wider international community of research and practice surrounding contemporary librarianship.” The report states that the library lacks vision and is not thinking far enough ahead to enable it to act strategically and coherently.

Library employees have been asked to read the council’s report and give feedback in anticipation of the LC issuing a response in December. Once the response has been finalized, library officials plan to request comments from peers, external communities, and Congress. Interested parties can examine the report on the National Research Council web site at

Bruce Craig is the director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.