Presidential Records in the New Millennium: Updating the Presidential Records Act & Other Federal Recordkeeping Statutes to Improve Electronic Records Preservation

Hearing Date: May 3, 2011 12:00 am

Chairman Darrell Issa Hearing Preview Statement

Since the passage of the Presidential Records Act 33 years ago, electronic media and information technology have proliferated across the federal government. Yet Congress has not undertaken a legislative effort to update the law and meet the demands of the digital information age. Three different presidents have issued executive orders to supplement the Presidential Records Act, but each has addressed issues relating to presidential privilege or the restriction of access to presidential documents. The classification of documents and rules of their collection, storage, and preservation, however, have remained unaltered since the Watergate era.

Tuesday’s hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, entitled “Presidential Records in the New Millennium” will examine current federal recordkeeping laws and evaluate options for improving the rules governing the collection, storage, and preservation of official electronic communications and documents.

Many of the technologies in use today permit federal employees to easily bypass the tools and protocols designed to capture official communications and documents. Instant messaging and text-messaging devices, personal e-mail accounts, social networking websites, and other emergent technologies not only allow federal employees to communicate outside of official federal channels during business hours, but also are not stored or retained by federal recordkeeping authorities.

Press accounts have revealed that senior White House officials have used personal, non-government e-mail accounts to communicate about official business and to arrange meetings and conversations beyond reach of the Executive Office of the President. These developments serve to highlight the need for legislative reforms to update the Presidential Records Act and ensure that current and future generations of Americans have access to the critical information about their government.

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
Brook Colangelo Chief Information Officer, White House Office of Administration Executive Office of the President Document
David S. Ferriero Archivist of the United States National Archives and Records Administration Document