Washington Brief - March 2001

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Dateline: January 25, 2001

NARA Captures Clinton Whitehouse.gov

In the waning days of the Clinton Administration, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) issued a last minute directive to preserve the official Clinton White House web site and to take a special one-time snapshot of the public web sites of Federal agencies. The Clinton White House web site became available on January 20th through the Clinton Presidential Materials Project at http://www.clinton.nara.gov/. The site, based on the official Presidential materials that are held at the Clinton Project located in Little Rock, AR, features four snapshots of the Clinton White House web site beginning in July 1994 and includes a White House Virtual Library, a searchable database of White House publications (http://search2.nara.gov/). NARA also announced that it will have sole legal custody of the Clinton-Gore Administration e-mail records that are governed by the Presidential Records Act. The Executive Office of the President will retain the responsibility of completing the ongoing restoration and reformatting projects to restore missing White House e-mails, as mandated by U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth in Alexander v. FBI. In addition, Federal agencies were required to take a snapshot of their public web sites by January 20th and send the files to the National Archives within 60 days. These web sites will become part of the National Archives and copies of the sites will be available to the public. Due to the volume of these web sites and the current lack of technological capacity to provide online access to them, at least NARA will be able to preserve them as official records of the government.

While NARA is to be commended for its action, for many years AALL has attempted to get Congress and the Administration to recognize that agencies in all three branches of government are responsible for ensuring the permanent public access of their online information. We are, in fact, already working with some members of Congress to develop legislation in this area. Unfortunately, it is too early to know the degree to which valuable documents and records of the Clinton Administration and the 106th Congress may have disappeared already. And it is still unknown what the Bush Administration�s agenda for e-government will be. Nonetheless, we believe that legislation is needed to ensure that Federal agencies, Congress and the courts develop information resource management systems to provide for the entire life cycle of electronic government information, including preservation and permanent public access. This will be among our legislative priorities for the 107th Congress.

Status of NCLIS Report and the PIRA

The expansive proposal by the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) to create a new Public Information Resource Administration (PIRA) in the executive branch�folding into it the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and NTIS�may not have much support within government. In recent letters to NCLIS, Public Printer Michael DiMario and U.S. Archivist John W. Carlin raised significant concerns with the draft report and stated that they could not support the draft legislative proposal. In a letter along similar lines, L. Ralph Mecham, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, stated that "...the judiciary can best achieve the Commission�s laudable goals by developing its own regulations, consistent wiht the objectives of the proposed legislation, so as not to jeopardize the judiciary�s constitutionally mandated responsibilities to the litigants, the legal community, and the public."

Appearing on a panel with NCLIS Deputy Director Judy Russell during the recent ALA Midwinter Meeting here in DC, I raised several concerns on behalf of AALL and the broader library community, including that:

First, we need to think seriously about the implications of shifting primary dissemination responsibilities to the executive branch from the legislative branch.

Second, the idea for an Information Dissemination Budget line item for agencies may be noteworthy, and yet the amount proposed by NCLIS is well below the current expenditures of a number of scientific agencies. Further, it is inadequate to fund the FDLP and the relevant public good functions of NTIS based on FY2001 appropriations. In addition, there are no guarantees that Congress would be willing to fund adequately what we believe to be substantial increased costs for a new large agency such as the PIRA.

And third, when assessing the pros and cons of the PIRA proposal, at the end of the day the key questions to ask are: 1) if and how these changes improve access to and use of government information by the public; and 2) whether they validate the access principles to which we all are committed. It is further important that any proposed new organizational model reflect the current and evolving technological capabilities of the networked environment that facilitate distributed information collection, processing, and dissemination of information.

The full-text of my comments are at so11301.asp. NCLIS is still finalizing its report and legislative proposal. Staff has promised to post the multi-volume report, as each volume is finalized between now and March, along with the formal comments that have been received, at http://www.nclis.gov/govt/assess/assess.html.

UCITA on a Fast-track in a Handful of States

Our AALL state UCITA contacts and members of the GRC have been invaluable in bringing to our attention early warnings of state legislative activity. As a member of the legislation committee of our new coalition, AFFECT (Americans For Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions), I have been able to supply timely and much-appreciated updates about pre-UCITA activity. This allows our coalition members to organize state coalitions swiftly, bringing together at the state level businesses, insurance firms, consumer groups, and the library and higher education communities. Currently, the two states that are already key battlegrounds are Arizona (H.B. 2041) and Texas. Other states we are keeping a close eye on are California, Florida, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire (L.S.R. 1014), Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin. If you hear of any UCITA activity in these or other states, please contact me immediately. Thanks!

The Virginia Library Association (VLA) negotiated an amendment to UCITA that is very narrow in scope, dealing only with tangible copies such as CD-ROMs and not with online databases or other content delivered over the Internet. Proponents of UCITA likely will portray this amendment, which has not yet been enacted in Virginia, as a national "fix" for libraries. Neither AALL, ALA or ARL support the amendment, as it does not resolve many of the problems UCITA creates for libraries nor should it serve as model language for the implementation of UCITA in other states. More information about UCITA, including a fact sheet about the VLA amendment, is available at the Washington Affairs Office web site.


Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative
Edward B. WIlliams Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-1417
202/662-9200 * FAX:202/662-9202