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Working Papers as Federal Records: The Need for New Legislation to Preserve the History of National Policy

By Philip G. Schrag


This article deals with policy records at the front end of their lives; that is, preserving them from destruction by federal agencies in the decades immediately after their creation. It does not deal with the destruction of archived documents by Archives officials themselves. It discusses only in passing the related question of how long a policy record should be sealed off from public inspection; the literature includes a variety of opinions on that subject. The author is content to leave to others the problem of just where to draw the balance between making historical documentation available soon enough so that it can offer relevant lessons to citizens, but not so soon as to discourage officials from putting their candid thoughts and recommendations on paper or disk, for fear of public exposure and pressure. He focuses, instead, on the preservation of governmental records, and particularly of drafts, comments, and other working papers. Of course the issues of preservation and access are intimately linked: if records are routinely destroyed as soon as they are no longer needed by their creators, public access-even much delayed public access-becomes altogether impossible

Topics: Federal records, working papers, National policy, history preservation, Administrative Law, Legislation
Publisher: Scholarship @ GEORGETOWN LAW
Year: 1994
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