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United States

NARA Goes Online 123

TeachingMachines writes "NARA, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, has gone online. NARA's self-described mission is 'to ensure ready access to the essential evidence that documents the rights of American citizens, the actions of Federal officials, and the national experience.' A very relevant site for the times, with transcripts and images of the most politically important documents of the United States. Included are the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Check out the list of available documents. The site is pretty large, with some incredible exhibits, and even an image of the original Magna Carta. Definitely worth a look."
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NARA Goes Online

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  • oh great... (Score:3, Funny)

    by tadheckaman ( 578425 ) <tad@heckamPLANCKan.com minus physicist> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @11:30AM (#5668480) Homepage
    Now that its online, we get to nuke it back off? You people are just too easily amused.
    *checks out the website thats growing slower*
  • Fantastic! (Score:5, Funny)

    by 955301 ( 209856 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @11:39AM (#5668503) Journal
    Folks, this is the answer to our prayers! Once the masses can get to these documents via the web, they'll actually read about the rights they have and discover that they're being taken for a ride by any number of special interest groups, politicians, media conglomerates, Attorney Generals *cough*, little ole' ladies, etc.

    Time for us to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Any moment now, the US population is going to wake up.
    • Re:Fantastic! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KDan ( 90353 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @11:41AM (#5668520) Homepage
      They have been able to get to those documents in public libraries for a while. Access is not enough, they also have to 1) know they exist, and 2) give a damn.

      Anyway, It's a shame they're not posting up all the declassified US govt documents that are coming out [frankolsonproject.org] and linking Cheney and Rumsfeld to all sorts of evil shit... Now that would be worth having online on a reputable site, so that we don't have to go by the word of journalists anymore, but can see for ourselves all the evil shit that has been going on...

      • Bah, who goes to the public library?! Online is where it's at! Right from your living room. This changes everything, I'm telling ya! Any moment now... people will stand up for their.... will... uh.... *looks at watch*... well....
      • Ah, but now we can point out to Joe Sixpack exactly where it says "The rights of the people ....." After all if it is on the internet it must be true.
      • I just searched for: Taliban

        >Results for: taliban
        >12 results found, sorted by relevance

        I think you're right. Sadly.
      • Re:Fantastic! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by skillet-thief ( 622320 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @12:51PM (#5668744) Homepage Journal
        The fact that the documents in line only go up to the 1950's is a sign.

        But no! Hang on! The sixties are coming soon!

        When the 60's doc get on line, that's when the revolution is going to happen!

      • They have been able to get to those documents in public libraries for a while. Access is not enough, they also have to 1) know they exist, and 2) give a damn.

        Every single child going through skill gets drilled in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence article by article. We spent 6 months studying and discussing the Bill of Rights alone. Anyone that claims to have gotten out of high school without learning these concepts and our rights as US citizens must've been the m

        • Re:Fantastic! (Score:2, Insightful)

          by schmink182 ( 540768 )
          Anyone that claims to have gotten out of high school without learning these concepts and our rights as US citizens must've been the most complete fucking moron on the planet

          It is just as easy to sit through an American Government class without learning anything as it is to sit through Algebra or English and not learn anything. The only precondition is that you have to not care, which is easily met.

          ...and shouldn't be allowed to vote.


          • ...and shouldn't be allowed to vote.


            Also agreed! AIUI, immigrants have to pass tests on English and on the US before they can become US citizens (hence vote). Why couldn't the same apply to people born in the US? Better still, a simple test on issues relating to that specific election and the candidates. Even just generic things like the candidate's names, who the incumbent is, that kind of thing. 10% turnout of people who actually care and have a clue would be better [IMO] than 30% turnout of

        • it doesn't matter (Score:3, Interesting)

          by zogger ( 617870 )
          --those documents have no relevance to reality anymore. The executive, judicial and legislative branches ignore them, they are almost completely corrupt and compromised now, the cops and military just take and follow orders, any orders. We have a theoretical constitutionally based representative republic, in reality, we have a totalitarian technofuedalistic autoaucracy that is a blend of socialism and corporatism, that runs on crimes, bribery, blackmail, state organized "terror" and massive bureaucratic mal
      • So we spam them

        Subject: Your Rights Online

        Your RIGHTS are being abused! Read about it here!!!


        Hey, it's meant to be funny ;-(


  • by Spazholio ( 314843 ) <slashdot@lexAUDENal.net minus poet> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @11:39AM (#5668506) Homepage
    According to the blurb, the mission of this is:

    to ensure ready access to the essential evidence that documents the rights of American citizens, the actions of Federal officials, and the national experience. (bold mine)

    Last I checked, the archive is run by the government (www.archives.gov), so how upfront are they going to be about the "actions of the Federal officials"? This seems like a good idea, but it could easily become little more than a "rah-rah-look-at-how-great-we-are" propaganda machine. I truly hope not, because it seems like a great idea.
    • Considering the choices they have made from the National Archives so far, they are pretty much showing our history warts and all. The Dred Scott decision is there, as is the Censure of Joe McCarthy and Pres. Teddy Roosevelt's Corrolary to the Monroe Doctrine. I didn't peruse the site at length, but those certainly don't fall into the "rah rah look at how great we are" category.

      I look forward to seeing transcripts from the Nixon tapes there in the future. And transcripts from the Iran-Contra hearings. And s
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05, 2003 @11:40AM (#5668507)
    after all, it's a historical archive of rights
    we used to have.

    It'll certainly be useful when kids start asking these questions:

    "Daddy, is it true you used to have the right to privacy?"

    "Daddy, is it true you used to have the right to see the evidence against you and defend against it?"
    • Just rewrite the history books so there never was any of your so called, "right to privacy."

      He who controls the present controls the past.
      He who controls the past controls the future.
    • by Erris ( 531066 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @03:11PM (#5669244) Homepage Journal
      "Daddy, is it true you used to have the right to privacy?"

      First the question won't be asked because the meaning of the word privacy will have been altered beyond recognition. You child will think they have a "right to privacy" and that it's worth dying for, but they will have no clue to what this means:

      "Amendment IV [archives.gov]
      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

      The "right to privacy" is a diluted positively asserted thing which can and does allow unreasonable searches without warrent specified by the much more powerful limit on government action above.

      "Daddy, is it true you used to have the right to see the evidence against you and defend against it?"

      "Amendment V

      No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

      Your child won't know what a Grand Jury is and due process of law has already been perverted so no such thing is needed. The secret court says you are a terrorist, knowing how they know would alowy you to hurt more people off to jail you go.

      What's all this fuss over anyway? We stared at the Soviets and global destruction for 50 years without becoming a police state. China is still around. Now, becase some jackass in Afganistan manages to kill a few thousand people we panic?

      What do we think we are going to stop? Terrorists WILL get their hands on nukes, they will take out cities and nothing can be done about it anymore than Israel can keep people from pipe bombing cafes. The world will go on.

      The only thing we can assure is what kind of world that will be. We can become another slave state or we continue to offer hope to the world for a better tomorrow. If we get lazy and turn on each other not only will the terrorist have won, they will have been right.

    • Who modded this "funny?" There should be a "Score +1, depressingly true" mod.
  • Magna Carta (Score:2, Insightful)

    I remember seeingone of the original copies of the Magna Carta when I was in the 2nd grade, while on a field trip. And now I can look at the original, online... I still like going to the museum best.
  • It is indeed a history lesson.
  • NARA goes online (Score:3, Informative)

    by corporate zombie ( 218482 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @11:54AM (#5668558)
    I don't know about anyone else but I've had them bookmarked for over a year. It's not like they just woke up and smelled the internet.

    • This site may have been up for a while, although I heard through the grapevine that most of the documents available here have not been previously available online and were recently added. But I'll add that the date that this site went online is probably less important than the events surrounding it [pbs.org]. That said, I believe that it is important to examine our actions and the actions of our leaders within the context of our historical roots. Reading the transcripts of documents such as the Bill of Rights gives
    • I've had it as my slashdot url for about that long *points up* ever since they changed to the archives.gov address and I had too google for where the constitution was online.
      Of course we can now say that the NARA is offline, because they've been slashdotted. Must be a slow news day, or something.
  • until (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05, 2003 @12:03PM (#5668596)
    to ensure ready access to the essential evidence that documents the rights of American citizens

    until it was /.`ed
  • Excellent site (Score:5, Insightful)

    by esconsult1 ( 203878 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @12:04PM (#5668600) Homepage Journal
    For those of us who were not born here and are behind a little bit on why we are really here.

    We leave our country and move to the United States because of the nebelous thing called "Freedom". Having all the relevant documents in one spot that can be studied is a fine thing.

    For you who were born here, perhaps the Gettysburg address has lost its thrill, but for me, when I heard it on a recent "Civil War" showing on PBS, my hair stood on end and a shiver ran down my spine.

    Especially these days, readers should re-acquaint themselves with the constitution, the bill of rights, and some of the famous speeches [state.gov] of past leaders. It takes a little digging to find what you need on the new site, but it's all there.

    Maybe i'm a little off topic, but just thinking about what this adopted country that I love so much stands for, and the fight that we on the home front are doing to make sure that our freedoms and rights remain intact in the face of so many obstacles -- makes it all worthwhile.

    • Re:Excellent site (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dalamcd ( 573483 )
      For you who were born here, perhaps the Gettysburg address has lost its thrill...

      Lost its thrill? If you asked a random person on the street about the Gettysburg address they'd likely give you a blank look. If you then said, "You know, fourscore--" they would finish "and seven years ago!" and maybe give a you a great big sloppy grin, but 99 out of a hundred wouldn't be able to tell you anything beyond "our forefathers".


    • I love reading those things...and I was born here!!! :-) it is sad that most kids and adults think that knowing how the government works and knowing the history of their own country is boring and unimportent.
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @12:07PM (#5668608) Homepage Journal

    Maybe this exists somewhere I've not found. I'd like to see a nice searchable voting record for Representatives, which is indexed against Presidential Vetos and Supreme Court rulings. If a bill was originally drafted by a non-legislator, I'd like to see that, too. Then on top of that, summarize certain interesting tallies.

    Rep. Harry Careless (X-SS) has sponsored 2 and voted in favor of 18 bills, subsequently Vetoed or Struck.

    • You are on to something very important here, almost nobody know how their elected officials voted on past bills, and fewer still know how they intend to vote on upcomming bills. Personally I would like to create a service (for free hopefully) that would allow people to sign up for email based updates about their representatives. When they sign up, their email address is associated with thier officials. Then whenever a vote occurs, an email is sent out with a summary of the bill, and how their representative
      • do it man hell, why stop there if you will get a grant, make a searchable cross refrencing DB like the parent said...if your lucky the Government will like it and mabye pay you to administrate it :-)
      • Our local newspapers publish all these statistics at election time. The information is available somewhere.
      • You are on to something very important here, almost nobody know how their elected officials voted on past bills, and fewer still know how they intend to vote on upcomming bills.

        The League of Women Voters has list like this, but the problem is that thay are all worthless: (read on)

        All bills in our congress are titled with nice names, but unfortunatly the devil is in the details - the substance of the proposed law differs drastically with the impresion you get with just reading the titles of the bills.

        • But will you be dilligent when you see that your representitives voted against the 'Soft Furry Puppy and Cute Kitten Act Protection Act' , and not jump to conclusions?

          Which is the whole point of the system I have in mind. Along with how they voted, include a small summary (if possible, given things like PATRIOT) describing just what the bill means. Its just fustrating to me when the media (generally but I know there are a few good eggs) focuses on who said what and gives almost no coverage to who voted w

          • This is a good idea, but I would focus on the backend and skip the commentary. That way you will not dilute the service with your views. Instead, collect a group of volunteers who will add their take on each bill. Let the subscribers pick and choose which person's view they want to see.

            If you do this correctly, you can then sell the service at a very small fee to special interest groups. These groups could then offer to send emails to their followers with their slant on the votes.
            Send an email to beer
      • Go here [capwiz.com] and sign up at the bottom of the page.
    • by mdxi ( 3387 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @01:03PM (#5668781) Homepage
      While it doesn't have the depth of analysis you desire, the raw information you want (adn much more) is available both in paper form and online at thomas.loc.gov, which is pretty much a one-stop shop for any sort of legislative information. You can even read complete transcripts of that fantastically exciting periodical "The Congressional Record".
    • http://www.opensecrets.org/ shows where conidates and parties are getting money. Which these days, sadly enough, is just as good as a voting record.
  • by sepluv ( 641107 ) <blakesley.gmail@com> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @12:07PM (#5668610)
    First I would say this site is a very good idea. I do not think people should judge it as a "propoganda machine" yet. It certainly does not look that way to me. It uses some bad HTML and does not validate [w3.org] (even the homepage has invalid HTML [w3.org]) but it is not bad (and /. is probably worse). I have not looked at it all but it seems very comprehensive and interesting from the perspective of a non-USAn.

    I am not in the US but I must say that I think the US Constitution is very well written and a great model for any nation (even if I may not totally disagree with small parts). I just read the Constitution and Bill of Rights and it it is well-written, timeless (i.e.: still applicable) and looks like the authors really cared about democracy and wanted to start a true democratic republic where the people had the power (and were not controlled by a government but had ccontrol over a truly democratic congress).

    However, the more I read of the Constitution, the more it seems that the modern governments of the USA try to break every rule (just go through them) it sets (to the extent that I believe many countries are far more democratic). Something I did not know that is interesting is that it seems to implie that the USA government is not allowed to have a permenent army but when attacked the citizens may form one for a short period (hence the right to bear arms, I guess). Throughout it really does put the citizens control, but, I guess, it did not work...

    • It's easy to lodge claims against the U.S. government when you don't actually cite an instance of the government breaking "every rule."
    • by Anonymous Coward
      First, this is an archive of historic documents, why do you worry that it will be interpeted as a "propoganda machine"?

      Also, the Constitution does not, in any way, forbid a standing military. In fact the US (under the Consitition) has always had some form of standing military and primary role of the President is to command the military. The right to bear arms is often interpted as a counter balance to the military; the idea being it is harder for the military to take over if the populace is armed.

      I do n

      • this is an archive of historic documents, why do you worry that it will be interpeted as a "propoganda machine"

        I was refering to an earlier comment that described it as such and I do not think it is at all.

        Also, the Constitution does not, in any way, forbid a standing military.

        If you read the bit about the military it could be construed as saying that there should not be a permanent army (e.g: one should be created when attacked) (particularly see the 2-year rule). I am not sure if that is exactl

        • Ye, I saw that too. Would that be like this [theonion.com]

          That reminds me of a conversation I had with a german colleague. He suggested that the whole matter could be sorted out if Bush and Hussein had a gunfight at dawn.

  • What, April Fools was 4 days ago, typical bureaucracy always delaying things!

    Yeah right it's not an April Fools, the government really wants to make sure the rights of American citizens and the actions of the government are well documented?

    Oh shit, when it's not an April Fools Joke then it's your Ministry of Information. Its name almost sounds like it too.

    "I did not have sexual relations with that woman. I really never did. What woman are you even talking about?"
  • NARA goes online, is welcomed with a hearty slashdotting and goes down in a heap of flames... what an eventful start!
  • According to nmap, the government decided that it is best to use Solaris 8 to run the site. Hmmm...good choice I guess. I was really hoping that it would be BSD, but I guess it really is dead at 4.8. =)
  • That's nice and all, but it would be nice if they massively improved access to the Federal Register [gpo.gov]. As an environmental engineer dealing with air quality issues, I have to look up regs all the time for changes, so I can atest it is terribly slow. So slow, EPA took all the effort to put the environmental portion of the Federal Register [epa.gov] on their own website.
    • by dmeranda ( 120061 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:04PM (#5670015) Homepage

      It is interesting that you link to the GPO [gpo.gov] website for the FR rather than the NARA [archives.gov] site. The official record keeper and editor of the FR is NARA, wheras the GPO is just responsible for the physicial reproduction and publication. Both run websites, but I find the NARA site to be much better. Also don't forget their joint website Regulations.Gov [regulations.gov] which went online earlier this year to try to better track proposed regulations still in their comment period and keep the US public better informed.

      For those who don't know, the Federal Register [archives.gov] is perhaps the most important function of the US National Archives, and most relevent to US citizens' day-to-day activities. I especially like the fact the that NARA FR website is updated daily with each new issue, including a very well organized table of contents. Furthermore each "publication" within the FR is available in both text and PDF format (no proprietary MS formats here!).

      Perhaps of the few things which I would like to see improved are: (1) online avilability of FR issues prior to 1998, (2) more frequent revision of the CFR, (3) easier cross reference between issues, dates, and page numbers, (4) an RSS feed of the daily table of contents, (5) FTP access to the FR, and (6) digitally signed (GPG?) issues.

      As far as the functional duties of the NARA, keeping the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and so forth are incredibly important, but usually don't affect the citizen directly...those historic documents' power really is expressed indirectly by governing what Congress can do and how the Justice department works...they are just the framework on which the bulk of the legislation and regulations hang. Please don't get me wrong, those foundational documents are what defines the US and and our freedoms, and as such are the most important documents we have. But seriously those documents are very stable and unchanging and don't require much action on the part of the NARA to maintain beyond being just a glorified museum.

      But the NARA is right at the center of the US government and has duties way more important than playing museum.

      The Federal Register is where the many thousands and thousands of highly detailed regulations, notices, presidental orders and so forth are recorded. It is the very presence of these writings in the Federal Register which makes them official and binding on the US citizens. The Federal Register is the primary means by which the government informs the country about what it expects us to do and not do. And it is the NARA which has the ultimately important responsibility of recording what's official and what's not. That's an incredibly powerful position if you think about it.

  • Seems to me like this site is gathering evidence for U.S. Crimes against the people that is sure to becoming in a couple of years. Oh well, try not to completely Slashdot it, I want a look into the past, maybe I'll learn when we went wrong.
  • loc.gov (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anderlan ( 17286 )
    Has the US Code, the above important documents, and thomas.loc.gov has current and past legislation; all this was up in 94.
    What's new here?
  • If the National Archives and Records Administration keeps the US Constitution, it's a museum, not an archive.

    With the way things are going, they may as well put all of the federal government's documents and operations online, since there will be no practical way for any alleged citizen to get into the soon-to-be-made W3S (Washington DC Special Security Sector).

    You can pick any event in American history to show the downfall starting (my favorite is Shay's Rebellion), but after the events of 1913 (Feder
  • Of all the things to be archived on the 'net, this is probably one of the best to find.
  • ... In Sweden we have something called "Offentlighetsprincipen". This means that all documents used in federal administration (except those specifically tagged as "confidential") are publically available.

    You can walk into any business governed by the state and ask to see any document.
    • ...In America we have something called "modified-laissez-faire-capitalism," where we get to keep most of the money we make, you seal eating socialist.
    • The US has the same principle. NARA is for archives and records (hence the name); as you might expect, the US government has a LOT of archives and records, and it's good to have an agency that has as its sole mission to preserve everything for posterity.

      You can get any federal documents that aren't classified (as in, "confidential" or "secret"), and the US government produces A LOT of documents. Also, laws like FOIA set general limits to how long classified documents can stay classified.
  • Has there been a slashdot poll on one's favorite of the bill of rights?
    <1> freedom of religion, press, speech
    <2> freedom to bear arms
    <3> no quartering of soldiers
    <4> no unreasonable search and seizure
    <5> due process of law
    <6> right to speedy trial
    <7> right to jury trial
    <8> no excessive bail
    <9> bill of rights doesn't deny rights not enumerated
    <10> powers not enumerated in constitution reserved for states, people
    <X> right of cowboy neal to bare
    • powers not enumerated in constitution reserved for states, people

      To be a proper /. poll, this should read:

      powers not enumerated in constitution reserved for states, you insensitive clod.

      right of cowboy neal to bare ???

      I dearly hope this right has been infringed on.

  • But how long before the easily accessible records of the past become the easily alterable records of the past... I can just see people going, "Well it's NARA, it has to be true."
  • I'm involved in a project called bluemud.org [bluemud.org], and we already have most of these documents available. Plus on bluemud.org they're searchable by topic, keyword, and publication date.

    We have over a quarter million documents waiting to get filtered into the directory, of which about 1100 have already been processed and are available to the general public. The rest of them are being filtered as quickly as possible and for impatient people, they can be viewed by registering on the site.
    • Great project, but you need WAY more librarian folk. It looks like it WILL BE the place to go for all things ascii eventually. I pledge to process 1 file a day. If you could just get 1000 people to do the same, bluemud would be the total flippin' bomb! Good luck, and can you post more "sex with horse"-files and BeeGees lyrics?

      seks pissed ol
  • ...they did a bang-up job of ensuring ready access to that fairly essential evidence.
  • it is that McCarthy's censure is featured.
    Senate Resolution 301: Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy (1954)

    On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy, who had led the fight in Congress to root out suspected Communists from the Federal Government. The censure described his behavior as "contrary to senatorial traditions."
  • Besides the more mainstream stuff, there are also some really interesting oddball things hanging around. For instance, John F. Kennedy's Favorite Waffle Recipe [archives.gov]. Or a letter from a 12-year-old Fidel Castro to Franklin D. Roosevelt [archives.gov]. Or, most essential of all, When Nixon met Elvis [archives.gov].

    Although I'm a little confused about what exactly the big news is...I've been browsing the NARA website for about 5 years now.

  • NARA.gov has been online for at least two years, and now simply links to archives.gov.
  • As an archivist-in-training (currently on leave from a grad program), I couldn't but help comment on this discussion. Archivists, as a whole - even those who work for NARA - are mostly a progressive bunch, who seek to ensure access to information rather than restrict it. We have our own set of professional ethics, namely the Code of Ethics for Archivists [archivists.org] published by the Society of American Archivists [archivists.org]. Archives do not fundamentally exist to be hidden - they are a source of information to be preserved and t
  • I don't get 404'd....i get a stinkin' MS website asking if I'd like to search for something else and that they can't find what I'm looking for!
    • I don't get 404'd....i get a stinkin' MS website asking if I'd like to search for something else and that they can't find what I'm looking for!

      In other news, citing the rising tide of civil unrest among programmers and the radical open source movement, George W. Bush appointed Bill Gates of Microsoft Chancellor of the United States. The Chancellor promptly issued emergency powers for himself to better disseminate MS products throughout the US in an attempt to stablize the country.

  • invented after the Magna Carta?
  • Uhhhh... this news is at least ten years old. I know this because I was the system administrator who helped put up NARA's first web site back in the early 90's, and NARA's first webmaster. I remember putting the Constitution and Declaration exhibits online (though I didn't make the actual web pages).

    NARA was one of the first government agencies on the web, primarily at first to provide access to genealogical research.
    • As an employee of the National Archives I was surprised to see this site as a *new* thing also. It's been up in its present form for at least a year and under the nara.gov flag before that.

      My job involves declassifying all those juicy records everyone wants to see. After many years of doing this I can assure you there precious few things the US government CAN keep secret. It really gives me a good laugh to see all the conspiracy types out there saying the government is covering something up - UFO's, J

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!