Washington — The National Coalition for History, a leading history-advocacy group, has come out in support of the Electronic Message Preservation Act, now pending in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The bill, HR 5811, was introduced by Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, a Democrat who is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. It would direct the National Archives and Records Administration “to establish standards for the capture, management, preservation, and retrieval” of federal-agency and presidential records in electronic format, the coalition said in announcing its support.
The coalition, a nonprofit consortium of more than 60 groups, tracks federal and regulatory issues involving history, and lobbies on behalf of historians, archivists, researchers, and other interested parties. In a letter to Mr. Waxman, Lee White, the group’s executive director, raised alarms about the low priority now given electronic-records preservation at the federal level. He cited the millions of White House e-mail messages from 2003 that have gone missing.
Among the missing documents, he observed, are those from the critical period between the invasion of Iraq, in March 2003, and President Bush’s announcement, on May 1, that major combat operations in Iraq were over. “If these records are indeed lost, imagine the difficulties that future historians of the Iraq War will have in presenting a full picture of the decisions that led us into this conflict,” Mr. White wrote. —Jennifer Howard