The aftermath of President Bush's Christmas Eve pardons of the Iran-contra defendants, combined with the court ruling January 7 in our victorious lawsuit to save the White House electronic mail, presented us with an embarrassment of riches in terms of extraordinary documents for this mailing, at the same time that the frenzy associated with these developments delayed our getting them to you. The result: A double issue of our "document of the month."
January's document is the "Memorandum of Agreement" signed by President Bush and the Archivist of the U.S., Don Wilson, during the morning hours of Inauguration Day, January 20, 1993. This memo may, in fact, have been George Bush's last official act at the White House. If so, it is a sorry note indeed on which to end Mr. Bush's career of public service, for this memo puts Mr. Bush into the less-than-illustrious company of Richard Nixon, whose very similar 1974 agreement with the General Services Administrator attempted to set up personal control over what were clearly public papers, and led directly to the Presidential Records Act of 1978 which was designed to preclude this kind of backdoor maneuver.
Among other highly questionable assertions, the Bush-Archives agreement unlawfully removes what are indisputably agency records from the control of the agencies involved, and purports to give Mr. Bush control over future access not just to the records, as the law defines them, but to the "information" in them or derived from them. The courts and the Congress will undoubtedly have something to say about this.
February's document is an abbreviated version of the extensive Caspar Weinberger file released by independent counsel Lawrence Walsh earlier this week -- an 88-page summary of Mr. Walsh's case with several hundred pages of documents precluded by President Bush's pardon from being used in court. The most humorous entry was apparently written by then- White House counselor Edwin Meese III on White House stationery and handed to Mr. Weinberger during a secret meeting (circa 1985) about third country deals to get support for the Nicaraguan contras, an apt setting for "The Weinberger Doctrine."
Also included is a sample of Mr. Weinberger's notoriously bad handwriting, dated April 21, 1987, from the 1700 pages of personal diaries he kept during the Iran-contra period. He failed to produce them to the various official investigations because, he contends, he never understood that investigators were asking for his diaries, only official "notes."
Mr. Walsh released several dozen memos and diary entries which contradict this contention, among them, an April 17, 1987 memo to Mr. Weinberger from Pentagon general counsel Lawrence Garrett describing the Congressional request for "highly personal and sensitive" materials including "all calendars, logs, diaries, appointment books, records of meetings and handwritten notes kept by you or on your behalf from January 1, 1985 through December 31, 1986, concerning Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras or Iran." Mr. Weinberger scrawled on this memo, "Larry, let's have a meeting after you hear what others are doing." The April 21 diary entry was transcribed by Mr. Walsh's office as follows: "Larry Garrett in office re demand by Sen-House Committee for briefings on black programs + their demand for my diary." Mr. Weinberger agreed with the transcription except for the last line, which he translated as "their demand for my choices." (You decide, but don't strain your eyes; more documents of the month are on their way).
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