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Monthly Archives: September 2013

"Big Foot, leader of the Sioux, captured at the battle of Wounded Knee, S.D." Here he lies frozen on the snow-covered battlefield where he died, 1890," via NARA ARC#530805

“Big Foot, leader of the Sioux, captured at the battle of Wounded Knee, S.D.” Here he lies frozen on the snow-covered battlefield where he died, 1890,” via NARA ARC#530805

Christine Anne George won’t STFU and move on, so someone I suppose has to be out here in the cold voicing reason.

I have yet to see reasonable explanations of the following lines of questioning, among others:

1) At the end of the line, having gone up to the U.S. Supreme Court and back, selections from the Belfast project were reviewed in camera. Boston College’s pinky-swears of confidentiality were balanced against the United States’ treaty obligations. Christine Anne George asks [ppt] for in camera review, and for a balancing test. Question: since George’s preferred outcome is exactly what happened in a world without archivists’ privilege, what is it exactly that the new privilege adds? What does it do that we desperately need done?

2) Journalists’ privilege, enshrined in shield laws, emanates from the press protections of the First Amendment. Priest-penitent privilege likewise flows from the First. Attorney-client privilege flows from the Fifth’s protection against self-incrimination, and from the Sixth’s and Fourteenth’s guarantees of due process. Where is the basis for archivists’ privilege in statute? Where is the basis in common law?

I’m going to go ahead and field that one for you: the basis is nowhere. Archivists’ privilege flows from authoritarian ideology and infantile religiosity. It asserts that the people with the keys to the vault always have society’s best interests at heart. It sacralizes communications between donor and repository, which if it didn’t already stink of the worst parts of medieval Europe would still drive our profession away from relationships whose boundaries can be qualified — contract — and into relationships of mutual debt so all-encompassing that it’s obscene for either party to call in the other — covenant. We move from being professionals to being basically the guy to whom YHWH said “Kill me a son.”

3) If your interest in this whole fantasia had been piqued by — let’s imagine — a Catholic archives’ refusal to comply with a state’s subpoena for personnel records of pedophile priests, whose side would you be on? Because the privilege will allow any institution which wants to attenuate its compliance with the judicial process big crazy latitude.

Oh wait. We don’t have to imagine. The Diocese of Rockford attempted to quash state’s subpoena in Illinois v. Campobello by arguing that the records created in the bishop’s archives were created with implicit confidentiality. (They also trotted out psychiatric, clerical and something they called a “critical self-analysis” privilege, by which one imagines counsel means self-critical analysis, which is what corporations use to shield records of accident investigations. Which, Rockford, wow. You have the worst fucking attorneys.)

Trial court dispensed with the claims summarily. Now imagine there’s an archives shield law in Illinois. Trial court treats communications bound for the archives as privileged, and institutional action to protect pedophiles gets devoured by this beast you’ve made.

To summarize: In order to alleviate this crisis-with-one-instance, George wants to spin from thin air a blanket protection for spooks, polluters, poisoners and pederasts, and to put archivists’ commitment to access on the chopping block. We take her counsel and come to ruin.

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