Cook v. NARA Versus the Public’s Right to Know

Sarah Lamdan

In Cook v. National Archives and Records Administration , the court misapplied the Freedom of Information Act’s (FOIA) privacy exemption to hide presidential records, favoring secrecy over the public interest. The court set up a double standard by protecting George W. Bush and Richard Cheney’s library reference requests—even though, under laws created during the Bush administration, librarians would face possible prison sentences for refusing to turn over similar requests.

This case note suggests that the Second Circuit tipped the balance too far in favor of privacy in Cook v. NARA by mistakenly (1) treating Bush and Cheney like ordinary academic scholars, (2) ignoring the open-government, transparency purposes of both the Presidential Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act, and (3) determining that PRA embargo periods are to provide former officials with unfettered access to their records.

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