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What Is The Presidential Records Act?

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Definition: The Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, 44 U.S.C. ß2201-2207, governs the official records of Presidents and Vice Presidents that were created or received after 20 January 1981. The PRA established a new structure for managing Presidential records and changed their ownership from private to public. Its passage was triggered by the Watergate scandal.

The Act directs the President and his staff to file personal records separately from Presidential records, to the degree practical.

In January 1989, President Reagan signed Executive Order 12667, which set out procedures for the National Archives and Records Administration to comply with NRA.

On 1 November 2001, President Bush signed Executive Order 13233, set forth new procedures for administering privileged presidential records.

According to the National Security Archive, the Bush Executive Order "gave former Presidents and their heirs (as well as former Vice-Presidents for the first time) indefinite authority to hold up release of White House records."

It also "permits the sitting president to deny the release of papers of a former president, even if that previous president authorizes the release of his papers."
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