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National Archives Cuts Back On Web Site Archiving 45

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-remember-everything dept.
hhavensteincw writes "The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is coming under fire for a new policy to stop the "harvesting" of a digital snapshot of all federal agency and Congressional Web sites after every Presidential and Congressional term. NARA, which archived more than 75 million Web sites in 2004 after George Bush's first term ended, will not harvest agency and Congressional Web sites when his current term is over because it says agencies are supposed to be archiving Web content on their own. But NARA has been criticized by some for opting out of preserving these important historical archives on the Web."
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National Archives Cuts Back On Web Site Archiving

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  • Its not History (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:31AM (#23046518) Homepage Journal
    If you dont document it.
  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:32AM (#23046530) Journal
    ... the price of storage dropping as it has.

    So what is the real reason for this? Its certainly not cost.

    Is it possible that nobody is interested in the data?
    • by bumburumbi (1047864) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:47AM (#23047048)

      Is it possible that nobody is interested in the data?
      People may not be interested in the data now, but as time passes, it will become more and more important. I am a bit surprised that the National Archives and the Library of Congress collect so little of the American cultural heritage. In Iceland, where I live, the National Library collects everything on the national TLD (is) three times a year, important sites are crawled more frequently. I know that the US web is several orders of magnitude larger than the Icelandic web. One would however assume that the resources available to the NARA and LC are significantly larger than what the Icelandic National Library has to spend on collecting websites. Collecting a subset of the US web every four years should be well within the means of the US government.
      • One would however assume that the resources available to the NARA and LC are significantly larger than what the Icelandic National Library has to spend on collecting websites.
        Oh god, I laughed so hard.
    • by Kwirl (877607) <kwirlkarphys@gmail.com> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:55AM (#23047092)
      I think we all know that the less history remembers of George W Bush's term as president of the free world, the better off we will look in our children's eyes. If he gets lucky he might get off easy with a 'worst president to ever hold the office' footnote.
      • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @12:07PM (#23047182)

        If he gets lucky he might get off easy with a 'worst president to ever hold the office' footnote.
        Of course, like with Nixon, you will still have slavering beasties defending him for the next few decades and blaming everything on liberals and campus radicals.
        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Well, if you can tell me what part of a) opening up dialogue with pinko, commie China and b) getting OUT of Vietnam where Kennedy and Johnson (both "liberals," last time I checked) makes Nixon a "conservative," then please let me know.

          Frankly, I'd have thought the bastard would be more palatable to lefties than to the Buckley crowd -- then again, it may just be that the neocons have confused the definitions so much as to make them meaningless.
          • Well, if you can tell me what part of a) opening up dialogue with pinko, commie China and b) getting OUT of Vietnam where Kennedy and Johnson (both "liberals," last time I checked) makes Nixon a "conservative," then please let me know.

            Nixon was not a leftie by any stretch of the imagination. Opening up a dialogue with Communist China was about realpolitik, not ideology. Plus, Communist China was hardly a bastion of liberalism. It was/is an autocratic regime. You seem to be confusing Communism and Socia

      • I think we all know that the less history remembers of George W Bush's term as president of the free world, the better off we will look in our children's eyes.

        Far better our children be aware of history, so they might be less inclined to repeat it.

        Looking good in the eyes of another is not nearly as desirable as acting good and eliminating that worry.

  • Wrong Time to Quit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:33AM (#23046544) Homepage Journal
    The NARA should not be considering quitting right when the Bush regime is caught red-handed deleting vast amounts of incriminating digital content that it was legally required to archive.

    If anything, NARA should be required to archive even more now, to guard against losing the unique copies at the other ends of official communications and publications. It should upgrade to a policy of redundant archivers keeping separate copies under separate policies, so that a rogue Executive can't flip one switch and toss all the evidence of their actions into the fire.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm not certain if you read TFA (or TFS, for that matter), but these are public websites that the NARA was archiving. They were doing it ONCE every term. If you want to see just what the NARA was doing, click on "Cached" on Google's search page...same idea.

      Honestly, I'm not pro-Bush by any stretch of the imagination, but the NARA's decision is NOT going to help the Bush "regime" hide anything that wasn't already readily accessible to the public.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I'm familiar with NARA's archiving, and how they're thinking of turning it over to the Internet Archive.org. But there's a difference between publishing and archiving. Yes, those websites are available to the public, but if there isn't a mandated archiving system, then lots will slip away. The sheer volume of published materials, so often revised to cover up abuses after it's slipped out, means that relying on the public to archive it piecemeal will risk lots of important evidence being lost. That's the ent
    • by the pickle (261584) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @12:20PM (#23047266) Homepage
      The NARA should not be considering quitting right when the Bush regime is caught red-handed deleting vast amounts of incriminating digital content that it was legally required to archive.

      Am I the only one who read this story and thought that maybe the NARA isn't choosing to do this? I think it's a mighty strange coincidence that they'd be doing this on their own in the last year of a presidency that, for the past seven years, has shown a willful disregard for the law, especially when it comes to the administration's own recordkeeping. Dubya's White House has made the missing files associated with the Clintons look like a single lost receipt by comparison.

      p
  • It really should not come as a surprise that yet another federal agency has decided not to do its job, but only what it wants to do. . . The reality of the situation is simple, the web is becoming a major communications method for the government, and the content will be a lens into the history of the government's interaction with the people. I am actually afraid that this "ignoring the present" is not some form of conspiracy to prevent the recording of history, but more of a case of senior government offi
    • Take whatever budget they have for the web archive and give it to archive.org, let them do the work. Include some long term DVD tech to stash at the library of congress. If the gov't can't do its job, pay someone else to do it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:10AM (#23046762)
    Any archives done by the government are useless because those who control the government can modify them if they so desire. This data needs to be archived by multiple independent private parties.
  • their job is to archive public records. Every document produced by the US government is public record unless classified.
  • Doesn't google do this already on their own servers?
  • why should the national archives repeat all the captured page loads that FBI and NSA are getting from the big telecom providers?...they don't just spy on your e-mail you know.
  • Because we saw how well that plan worked for the White House emails...
  • doublespeak (Score:5, Interesting)

    by osssmkatz (734824) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @01:09PM (#23047576) Journal
    Back when archives.org was archiving whitehouse.gov, we saw changes in speeches to match the current rationales etc. Is this why they don't want to archive?

    --Sam
  • I think it is a big mistake for NARA to stop what they are doing. A centralized authority bearing the imprimatur of NARA for creating, implementing, executing and enforcing a standard of archiving is desperately needed. This standard is critical for future historians to be able to make sense of our collective legacy.

    Halting now and distributing responsibility amongst the various federal agencies will foster a haphazard distorted view of the past.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Prior to 9/11, the presidential records of the first Bush presidency had been scheduled to be turned over to the National Archives, but the second Bush delayed their release.

    Right after the 9/11 incident, these records were reclassified. Around the same time, there was a wholesale reclassification of documents in the National Archives going back to WWII, making them unavailable to the public.

  • Private archiving, (e.g. archive.org) coverage is not what it once was either, though maybe for different reasons.

    More and more operators are choosing to protect their "intellectual property" using robots exclude, noarchive, or similar policies.

    More and more websites use dynamic methods to present data, or use more complex interfaces involving javascript, flash, java, etc that make them technically hard to capture.

    Conversations that formerly occurred on usenet now happen on proprietary bulletin board

  • "NARA, which archived more than 75 million Web sites in 2004 after George Bush's first term ended, will not harvest agency and Congressional Web sites when his current term is over because it says agencies are supposed to be archiving Web content on their own."

    Um, are these agencies the same ones that were supposed to be archiving all their e-mail as well? You know, the e-mail that was all conveniently deleted according to "procedure" just before it was needed in a major congressional investigation?
  • I have studied a bit of history at the University level and I am not sure whether the digital age will make that job easier or harder in the future. With the overwhelming amount of online content in blogs and such it will be easier to find accounts of events but harder to seperate opinion from fact. It will be easier to search through being electronic but harder to sort through due to the overwhelming quantity of information on the current internet. It is also much easier to alter unless things like electro
  • We read with interest your postings on this topic. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has posted background information regarding our web harvest decision at http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/memos/nwm13-2008-brief.html [archives.gov]. This background document includes links to our guidance products related to web records and the decisionmaking process we went through to arrive at our decision. Paul M. Wester, Jr. Director, Modern Records Programs National Archives and Records Administration

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