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Different Agency, Different Rules

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Through the years, a few employees at the State Department and the Internal Revenue Service have sunk into legal trouble for violating citizens' privacy -- poking into passport application files or tax returns from celebrities, for example.

Such issues play out differently at the National Archives and Records Administration, which is charged with keeping records whose statute of limitations has long since expired.

To mark the dedication of its new National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis on Oct. 15, the Archives just put out a media invite that gets straight to the sexiest stuff: While touring the facilities stacks housing 100 million personnel files of veterans and former civil servants, the preservation lab and an exhibition on human rights, scribes can also enjoy the "opportunity to view original personnel files of famous veterans such as Jackie Robinson, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, George Patton, Jack Kerouac, and Alex Haley."

Names sell papers.

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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