Congress Denied Access to Hagel Archive

'It is consistent with national archival practices for congressional archive materials to remain closed until processing has been completed,' university tells congressional staff

February 22, 2013

The University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) is refusing Congress access to an archive of materials related to embattled secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel, according to correspondence obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Congressional staff attempted to gain access to the university’s archive following failed attempts by reporters to view the material, which includes speeches and remarks made by the former Republican Nebraska senator.

University officials maintain that Hagel himself would have to grant access to the archives.

A media relations coordinator at UNO told a congressional official late Friday that access would not be granted to those who hold proper national security clearance, according to emails obtained by the Free Beacon.

Reporters and congressional officials have attempted to access the archive in recent weeks in order to ensure that Hagel has been fully vetted before the Senate votes on his nomination.

"If there are concerns that the archives hold sensitive national security information, can you let me know if the university’s facilities are currently authorized by the U.S. government to hold classified information?" asked the congressional official. "Our congressional investigations staff hold the appropriate clearances to review such information if indeed classified."

The media relations coordinator told the official no access would be granted until a certified archivist had finished fully codifying the material.

"It is consistent with national archival practices for congressional archive materials to remain closed until processing has been completed," the coordinator insisted, despite the time sensitive nature of the request for access.

"The archives have not been processed, and the answer … is based on the lack of processing rather than any specific concern about contents," the coordinator said in the email.

The congressional official also sought to determine "if there are concerns regarding constituent privacy," as well as "what individual or entity is tasked by the University of Nebraska to determine what information will be releasable in the future?"

The UNO coordinator responded, "The archives are being processed by a trained archivist attuned to the issues regarding privacy of personal information and will consult with the archivist of the U.S. Senate and other recognized experts."

The Weekly Standard reported Wednesday that one of their reporters was refused access to the Hagel archive despite multiple discussions with university officials, who told a reporter access to the archive could only be granted with Hagel’s approval.

"The [2008] agreement … signed between the university and former senator precludes anyone from looking at the archives until they are complete," the Standard reported.

University officials also declined to show the Standard the copy of the agreement Hagel signed with the university.

Concerns have arisen in recent weeks about several controversial comments Hagel may have made during speeches delivered in 2007 and 2010.

Hagel has failed to provide lawmakers with full transcripts and videotapes for several of his past appearances despite promising full transparency.

The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that "Hagel said the U.S. Department of State was an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister’s office," according to a contemporaneous report of the 2007 event at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Additionally, the Free Beacon reported Tuesday that Hagel said Israel is at risk of becoming an apartheid state during an April 9, 2010, appearance at Rutgers.

The University of Nebraska Omaha did not return requests for comment.