Clinton Papers Won't Be Released Until After Election

Democratic frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has been taking heat from her Democratic and Republican opponents for the reams of papers detailing her various activities as First Lady that the National Archives has yet to release from the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library.

And now questions are being raised about why another set of papers relevant to her political career at yet another Arkansas library will not be available to the public until well after election day 2008, despite earlier indications that the papers would have been released by now.

Those papers were written by Diane Blair, a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who taught and engaged in Arkansas politics until her death due to lung cancer in 2000.

As a trusted friend during then-Gov. Bill Clinton's successful presidential run in 1992, Blair was permitted to extensively interview 126 senior and junior Clinton campaign aides, which resulted in four enormous binders full of information.

The information was to be published in a book that Blair, a historian and author, ultimately never wrote.

Only two copies of the Blair Report were ever made; one was given to the Clintons, the other remained in Blair's custody until after her death, whereupon the books were given to the University of Arkansas Library.

Last month the University of Arkansas announced that the Blair Papers would not be made public until 2009. Andrea Cantrell, the head of research services at the university library's Special Collections, told reporters that the Papers were not yet processed.

But that claim seems questionable, according to statements the Library itself has made obtained by ABC News.

In its 2005-2006 University Libraries annual report, for example, the University of Arkansas reported that the process was almost done. "Archivists were hired to process both the Diane Blair Papers and the records of former third district Congressman Asa Hutchinson, and both collections are nearing completion."

Moreover, while in November 2005 the University appointed Kerry Jones the "Diane Blair Papers Archivist," the University Of Arkansas Library Newsletter one year later, in 2006, implied the job has been completed, describing Jones as having "previously processed the papers of the late Diane Blair."

Jones was desribed as taking on a new task, as part of the Special Collections Department team "gearing up to begin processing its largest manuscript collection, the papers of former U. S. Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt."

"All I can say is that was a preliminary estimation and neither of the collections that were reported on are finished, neither Blair nor Congressman Hutchinson's papers," Tom Dillard, head of the Special Collections Department, told ABC News. "They're just not ready."

Dillard acknowledged that while "there has been a preliminary processing," and that Jones "did his part," the Blair Papers require much more "quality control" work.

"The big problem are the oral histories," he said. "Those require a lot of legwork. The other process is going through it box by box and making sure the contents of what's in the file folders is what they're supposed to be. There is a lot more work that needs to be done."

A spokesman for Clinton's Senate office, Philippe Reines, told ABC News that no one from Clinton's Senate office, her campaign, or from the office of former President Clinton have had any contact with the University of Arkansas about delaying the release of the Diane Blair papers.

"It's not a conspiracy," Dillard told ABC News. No representative of the Clintons has been in touch with the Library, he said. "No, absolutely not. No political campaign has been in touch with us. Nor have any individuals been in touch with us asking us to do anything different from what we would normally do."

The library newsletter indicated that two years ago Jones had extra help in processing the papers.

"Visitors to the Library's Special Collections Department might notice two students working diligently processing the papers of the late Professor Diane Blair," wrote the University Of Arkansas Library Newsletter in 2005. "These students are the first two Diane Blair Interns appointed by the University Honors College in a collaborative venture with the University Libraries."

Intern Lindley Carruth Shedd "commented that she finds her work in the Blair papers fascinating, and she believes the Blair collection "will be a great resource to those who want to study women's issues, state politics, or Bill and Hillary Clinton."

Two biographies of Clinton released this year and criticized by the Clinton campaign -- Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.'s "Her Way" and Carl Bernstein's "A Woman In Charge" -- reported on the Blair papers as a treasure trove of information about the 1992 Clinton campaign.

Blair's "questions, based on extensive preparation," wrote Gerth and Van Natta, "elicited candid remarks from aides who trusted her. She chronicled the highs and lows of a dogged campaign and quickly generated a mountain of insightful information.

In the end, she compiled her lengthy report -- the introduction alone numbered thirty pages -- into 'big bound volumes.'" Bernstein was able to interview Blair before her death and see the papers.

Dillard said he did not know when the Blair Papers would be made available, and he said the Library would not release her 1992 report separately since it was not customary.

"We always open a collection in its entirety because individual component parts do not always make sense," he said.

Despite Clinton's suggestions that she would support a more transparent government as President, Newsweek first reported, that in November 2002 former President Bill Clinton specifically requested that the Archives "consider for withholding" various "confidential communications" including those pertaining to "sensitive policy, personal or political" matters as well as "communications directly between the President and First Lady, and their families, unless routine in nature."

The term "withhold" is a term of art relating to presidential papers not necessarily meaning that the papers be kept from the public, but rather that they be reviewed before release.

Historians have complained that while the decision of what to release is ultimately up to the National Archives, Clinton's letter at the very least doesn't expedite the process and may even be delaying it, though the former President disputes that.

The National Archives controversy, as well as questions about the release of the Blair Papers, touch on a murky and well-traveled ground where politicians insist they are releasing information while historians and reporters suspect forces at play delaying immediate disclosure.

Information as yet un-released from the the days of her husband's presidency stored at the Bill Clinton Library constitutes more than 99 percent of 78 million pages' worth and 20 million emails worth of documents, according to the National Archives.

In response to questions about papers not yet released by the Clinton Library, Sen. Clinton told Radio Iowa, "I think it's like people think we have boxes of records in our basement and why don't I just go and get them and hand them over. And you know my husband has never blocked a record ever. He has been the most forthcoming of all presidents."

Bill Clinton's 2002 request and Sen. Clinton's confusing answer on the subject when asked about it at last week's debate, have fueled attacks from Clinton's Democratic and Republican opponents that the Former First Lady is, if not hiding something, not willing to completely disclose everything.

"We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, during the recent Democratic debate "And not releasing, I think, these records -- at the same time, Hillary, that you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experience -- I think, is a problem."

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