President Clinton, already under fire for political abuse of FBI and
Internal Revenue Service files, has quietly issued an executive order
that could give him access to even more sensitive documents for the
remainder of his administration.
The new executive order, like others issued by the Clinton
administration, seems, at first glance, innocuous. It is an amendment
to Executive Order 12958 regarding classified security information
and was signed by the president Nov. 19.
It establishes a new bureaucracy, the Information Security Oversight
Office, within the National Archives and Records Administration. But
this doesn’t appear to be just another jobs program for Clinton pals at
your expense. Rather, this EO raises grave privacy issues.
In Section 3, Clinton establishes a directorship for the new office,
under the direction of the national archivist. The director is to work
with the assistant to the president for national security affairs and
the co-chairmen of the security policy board.
Most people have no idea who the national archivist is. His name is
John W. Carlin, the former governor of Kansas, who got the very
political appointment in 1995 over the objections of some historians and
researchers who believed the job should go to a professional with some
qualifications in the area. In fact, 16 organizations, including the
National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, opposed
Carlin’s nomination — something of a surprise. I don’t remember hearing
a word about this tempest in a teapot. His nomination was approved
without debate or roll call in the Senate as part of a consent motion
that included seven other presidential nominees.
Now, it turns out, Carlin and Sandy Berger will hold in their hands
the ability, on behalf of the president, to get federal files — even
classified documents — on just about anybody for any reason.
That’s right. That seems to be the essence of this new executive
Section 4 of the order creates an Information Security Oversight
Office within the national Archives and Records Administration. Carlin,
or the archivist, appoints the director, subject to the approval of the
The director of this new department has the authority to require of
each agency: “Those reports, information, and other cooperation that may
be necessary to fulfill its responsibilities. If granting access to
specific categories of classified information would pose an exceptional
national security risk, the affected agency head or the senior agency
official shall submit a written justification recommending the denial of
access to the President through the Assistant to the President for
National Security Affairs within 60 days of the request for access.
Access shall be denied pending the response.”
Do you really imagine agency heads, all of whom are appointed by the
president, are going to deny access of anything to their boss?
As I read this EO, we now have a director of a new agency, working
hand-in-glove with Sandy Berger, who will be able to snoop through any
and all agency records and documents at the whim of the president.
Clinton has a history of using executive orders to subvert and ignore
the will of Congress. His top aide, Paul Begala, boasted in 1997 of this
strategy with his now-famous line: “Stroke of the pen, law of the land.
Kinda cool.” So far, no one in Congress has raised a peep about this
latest executive order. Not surprising since there is no mechanism in
place in the legislative branch to oversee and systematically review
By the way, one of the most noxious of all Clinton executive orders, 13083, was issued
while he was in Birmingham, England, in 1997. Only a barrage of attacks
on that redefinition of federalism sparked by a series of WorldNetDaily
stories, forced its suspension. This little stinker was issued while
Clinton was visiting Greece, a trip marred by people throwing stones at
him. You have to wonder what was so important about rushing this one
through? Maybe now we know. And maybe, given recent history, there’s a
chance to kill this declaration of open season on privacy by the White