Students at the University of Nebraska are objecting to the school’s refusal to allow access to an archive of newly confirmed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s speeches and writings.
Senate Republicans requested access to the archive during the fight over the former Nebraska senator’s confirmation in light of allegations Hagel’s speeches included anti-Israel comments.
"The University of Nebraska, which myself and all my fellow students pay substantial tuition to, should not hold this public information hostage," said JR Bloom, a student at the University of Nebraska and acting chairman of the Nebraska Federation of College Republicans. "I only hope that after confirmation, we will not discover information we regret not knowing prior because university leaders allowed Hagel to hide behind them."
Bloom said he and fellow students mounted a protest today outside the state capital building.
"We are going out in the cold and snow today in the midst of our busy college schedules to voice our concerns," he said.
Reporters have been blocked from accessing Hagel’s archive at the University of Nebraska, which includes video recordings of his speeches. According to university officials, the archive will not be open to the public until it has been "processed and indexed, according to the standards and best practices of the Society of American Archivists."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) sent Hagel a letter last week asking him to support public access to the archives at the University of Nebraska as well as any video recordings of his speeches compiled by the Washington Speakers Bureau.
"Sen. Hagel, given the threats we face in the world and the public confidence level needed to be an effective secretary of defense, I believe the airing of your views and record is critical to the confirmation process," Graham wrote. "Will you give interested parties access to the archives at the University of Nebraska and the Washington Speakers Bureau?"
Hagel responded to the letter late Monday, according to Graham’s office.
"The University of Nebraska has publicly stated the archive will not be open to the public until the archive is fully processed and indexed," Hagel wrote. "The Washington Speakers Bureau confirmed that it will not provide any recordings of speeches nor confirm which of its clients recorded any of the speeches. Neither I nor the Washington Speakers Bureau recorded any of the speeches."
Hagel also responded to Graham’s questions about anti-Israel comments he allegedly made during a 2010 speech at Rutgers University, according to a contemporaneous account reported on by the Washington Free Beacon. An audience member wrote in an email during Hagel’s 2010 speech that the former senator said Israel was risking becoming an apartheid state, called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a radical, and said Israel had broken numerous United Nations treaties.
"Regarding your question about comments attributed to me from an uncorroborated, paraphrased email printed in the Washington Free Beacon about my Rutgers 2010 lecture: I do not recall making any such comments or ever making similar comments," Hagel said in his letter to Graham.