Senator seeks reasons for archivist's dismissal

At least one senator will ask the Bush administration to disclose its reasons for asking the current archivist of the United States, former Kansas Democratic Gov. John Carlin, to resign, before approving his potential successor, Allen Weinstein.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., pointed to the White House's responsibility to provide Congress with an explanation for its decision to dismiss a sitting archivist and urged the other members of the Senate Governmental Affairs committee to join him in his request Thursday at Weinstein's nomination hearing.

Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she was not aware Carlin had not resigned voluntarily until Levin brought forth a letter from him. She said she needed time to discuss the issue with Governmental Affairs ranking member Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., before deciding whether to request an explanation.

In response to concerns from historians and scholars surrounding Carlin's resignation, Levin wrote a letter to him asking why he had stepped down as head of the National Archives and Records Administration. Carlin, who has served since 1995, wrote that the counsel to the president had told him December 5, 2003, that the White House wanted to appoint a new archivist. "I asked why and there was no reason given," wrote Carlin.

When questioned by Lieberman, Weinstein said the White House had approached him about the position, and he had started filling out the necessary paperwork as early as November 2003.

Weinstein told Lieberman no one in the White House had instructed him he would be expected to keep presidential documents secret if he took the position.

If that had been the case, he said, he would not have been interested in the position. "No job is worth my integrity," said Weinstein, founder of the Center for Democracy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping emerging democracies. "The archivist's job is to advocate for access."

But Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said he had trouble reconciling that philosophy with Weinstein's stated intention to defend the president's executive order against court challenge.

"I think I know where your heart is, but I want to know where your lawyers will be. If your lawyers are restricting access to the presidential documents, I think you're on the wrong side," Durbin said.

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