Bush must approve Clinton's plans to release some presidential records early

Friday, September 17th 2004, 8:26 pm
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Former President Clinton will have to ask President Bush for permission to release thousands of domestic-policy records from his two terms in the White House, officials at Clinton's presidential library said Friday.

Clinton has said he wants to make 100,000 documents available to scholars and researchers on Nov. 18, the day his presidential library opens and nearly a year sooner than required.

But officials at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock said the release of White House records will be governed by a law that requires President Bush to approve any early disclosures.

``In the weeks after Nov. 18, we're going to make every effort to open as much as we can. But people need to realize that what we open doesn't have to do with what we want to do; our hands are bound by the provisions of the Presidential Records Act,'' library Director David Alsobrook said.

While researchers are waiting for the archives to open, they can visit the library's Web site, where every public remark uttered by Clinton during his two terms has been collected into 20,000 searchable pages, Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy said.

The Web site includes 380 photographs, 2,400 press briefings, 467 radio addresses, 2,600 speeches and 1,200 press releases.

Under the Presidential Records Act, former presidents can withhold the release of records for at least five years and up to 12 years under certain criteria _ sometimes even longer if the documents are a matter of national security. President Bush must sign off on the release of any such records that are to be opened earlier.

Clinton's lawyer, Bruce Lindsey, said last year that documents released would not include Clinton's legal defense in the Whitewater and the Monica Lewinsky-Paula Jones investigations.

The only documents certain to be available at the opening of Clinton's library are 500,000 pages collected by the health care task force headed by then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The task force's proposal for a universal health care system included closed-door meetings and led to one of Clinton's early first-term defeats.

The closed meetings led to a federal court ruling that opened the documents nine years ago.