Previously secret Clinton White House documents released
February 27th, 2014
05:15 PM ET
9 months ago

Previously secret Clinton White House documents released

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Updated 1:35 p.m. ET, 2/28/2014

(CNN) – A new look at the inner workings of the Clinton White House emerged Friday, with the National Archives and Records Administration releasing a first batch of confidential memos and papers.

Some 4,000 to 5,000 pages of documents came out shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

Highlights from the Clinton White House documents | View the documents

Heavy demand appeared to disable the website of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library for some users in the first minutes after the documents were released.

The papers cover topics including the office of former first lady Hillary Clinton, now considered the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, if she decides to run.

Other topics in the initial release at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock as well as on the library's website, will involve the Clinton administration's initial response to al Qaeda years before the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.Correspondence and other documents related to Mrs. Clinton's failed effort to overhaul the health care system are also included, according to the National Archives.

One potentially intriguing subject will be a Freedom of Information Act request involving the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

Additional FOIA cases include Hillary Clinton on Children's Issues and Women's Rights, Hillary Clinton on Microcredit and Microdevelopment, and one on Lissa Muscatine, who was a speechwriter and communications director for the the former first lady.

With the potential for politically volatile details in the documents, groups trying to bolster or harm Hillary Clinton's possible presidential ambitions made clear they will be having a look.

America Rising, a pro-Republican opposition research shop told CNN that "we'll be poring through them," with a person on ground in Arkansas for that purpose. Correct the Record, a pro-Democratic group with deep ties to the Clinton family, also told CNN it would have a team going over the new information.

In total, approximately 25,000 pages of new documents, including confidential communications between President Bill Clinton and his top advisers, will be released over the next two weeks. Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, they became eligible for release in January 2013, 12 years after Clinton's presidency ended.

"When those restrictions expired, NARA then provided notification of our intent to disclose these Presidential records to the representatives of President Obama and former President Clinton in accordance with Executive Order 13489, so that they may conduct a privilege review of the records," the National Archives said in a written statement. "As they complete their review, NARA is able to make the records available."

An additional 8,000 pages are undergoing a further month-long review per a directive from the White House and will not be available for release prior to March 26. The documents in question were part of files that had been requested for public release over the years under the Freedom of Information Act, but were withheld due to their sensitive nature.

While the Presidential Records Act established public ownership of White House documents as far back as the Reagan Administration, it defined six categories of records that could be withheld for the 12-year period. They include classified national security information, confidential business information and trade secrets, and unwarranted invasions of personal privacy.

The 33,000 pages of documents pertaining to federal appointments and confidential communications, so-called "P2" and "P5" exemptions, also fall under the 12-year protection of the act.

After the 12-year mark from the end of a presidential administration, the records are subject to the same restrictions as spelled out in the Freedom of Information Act, with one key exception. Congress excluded presidential records from exemptions based on executive privilege.

However, since the passage of the law, Presidents Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have each issued executive orders clarifying the process under which an incumbent president or former president could assert executive privilege to prevent the release of documents.

The upcoming releases will not be the first from the Clinton archives. The library routinely releases records in response to FOIA requests, although a sizable backlog exists.

Records were also released during the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan, who worked as a White House lawyer during the Clinton administration, and also as a result of ongoing legal action from the conservative group Judicial Watch.

Interest in the often unglamorous world of archival research has spiked due to the possible presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state in Obama's first term.

Earlier this month, an article by the Washington Free Beacon on the papers of the former first lady's close friend Diane Blair lead to increased scrutiny of the special collection housed at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

What follows is a list of the Freedom of Information Act Requests and an outline of what information was released in response:

FOIA 2006-0167-F – The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands

FOIA 2006-0175-F – Executive Order 13111

FOIA 2006-0191-F – The 9/11 Commission Report “Responses to Al Qaeda’s Initial Assaults”

FOIA 2006-0198-F – Hillary Rodham Clinton on Children’s Issues and Women’s Rights [Seg. 4]

FOIA 2006-0203-F – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

FOIA 2006-0208-F – United States Information Agency

FOIA 2006-0214-F – Jamie Metzl, National Security Council

FOIA 2006-0238-F – Nancy Soderberg and Rwanda

FOIA 2006-0460-F – Robert (Bob) Boorstin

FOIA 2006-0467-F – Jeff Shesol, Speechwriter [Part 2]

FOIA 2006-0885-F – Health Care Task Force

FOIA 2006-1301-F – Hillary Rodham Clinton on Microcredit and Microdevelopment

FOIA 2006-1734-F – David Shipley, Speechwriter

FOIA 2008-0702-F – Paul Orzulak, National Security Council Speechwriter

FOIA 2008-0703-F – Thomas Rosshirt, National Security Council Speechwriter

CNN's Dan Merica and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: Arkansas • Bill Clinton • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Donna

    This could get REAL interesting fast for Bill & Hillary. But I'm sure the records will be well scrubbed to protect them and deceive the American public.

    February 27, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. B.

    Will these memos be DNA tested for "stains?"

    February 27, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  3. John Smith

    So what held them so far?
    Yep, carefully removing damaging evidence and ones that may hurt 2016 campaign.

    February 27, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. John

    He should release them to the penthouse forum.

    February 27, 2014 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  5. Tampa Tim

    If you watch Hannity, by the time the editing is done, he will still have nothing, so he will just lie.

    February 27, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  6. Rusty Krus

    Can't wait for the day she is inaugurated. What a wonderful day it will be!

    February 27, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  7. p a lewis

    I'm sure if he had a meeting with Jesus the G O P would have something to say bad about it.

    February 27, 2014 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  8. Barry

    This coincides with Republican requests of course.

    February 27, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  9. Barry

    "Batch" They make them sound like cookies.

    February 27, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  10. jason

    will we ever see bush-cheney crime memos

    February 28, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  11. sly

    President Clinton and future President Clinton. True American hero's. President Obama? One of the most influential President's ever.

    These are good times for America, and it's showing with record stock markets and record 401k's and our President kicking America's #1 enemy of all time's butt. Deficits down 37% this year alone. Good times. And no Bush Oil Wars.

    February 28, 2014 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  12. Ime Anthony

    Important contribution in cleansing 2016 presidential grounds. It is experimentation for observation.

    February 28, 2014 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  13. Fiona

    Anything that's keeps her out of the running is all good.

    February 28, 2014 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  14. M.

    It's ok. America knows that Hilary will run and she will be the next US President regardless of what comes out from the Clinton library. Just accept it and get off the horse.

    February 28, 2014 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  15. Peter Grenader

    Donna: a little less drama please. Instead of the endless searching for the Hillary dirt, how about you guys find a candidate that is actually electable on a national scale, doesn't close bridges down for personal political grudges and caters to all Americans, not just ones of national origin which earn more than 250K a year.

    February 28, 2014 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  16. The other guy

    You make it sound that there might be a slight chance that she won't be appointed president. Ya silly!

    February 28, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |