Attempts to access the official archive of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's nominee for defense secretary
, have been repeatedly rebuffed despite arguments the material would be valuable in confirmation deliberations.
The Weekly Standard's Daniel Harper
said staffers at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where the archive on the controversial nominee
is located, gave him a runaround that ended with a supervisor telling him that his request was not a "top priority."
Stephen R. Shorb, the university's dean of the Criss Library, said the Hagel collection, which the school acquired in 2008 when the senator retired, has always been closed to the public.
"The archives contain ~1700 boxes of documents, ~1000 audio and video recordings, ~1000 photographs, and artifacts and hundreds of books from Sen. Hagel’s personal statement," Shorb said. "The archives are being organized so that they will be a resource for future researchers, and are not open to the public at this time."
When Harper asked when the collection would go public, Shorb estimated roughly two and a half years.
Harper said he attempted to persuade Shorb to make an exception and grant him access to the collection, arguing that the information in the collection could be of national importance to next week's decision on Hagel.
Though Harper said Shorb appeared sympathetic, the reporter said that the library dean eventually said the matter was out of his hands and that giving him access would violate the terms the school agreed to when Hagel donated the files.
When Harper asked to see the official policy, Shorb refused to turn it over.
Harper tracked down the university's senior vice chancellor of academic and student affairs, B.J. Reed, in an attempt to circumvent Shorb, but Reed deferred to Shorb. However, he showed Harper the agreement between Hagel and the university to keep the documents private.
Erin Fogarty Owen, director of marketing for the university and a former Democratic spokesperson, met with Harper after he spoke with Reed, at which point she assigned him a temporary guide.
Harper called the guide a "minder," in reference to the escorts officials assign foreigners visiting self-isolated regimes like North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
After waiting with Harper for an hour, the "minder" left. That night, Harper called Shorb on his cell phone in a last ditch effort to obtain the information.
Harper said Shorb replied, "'I work for the people of Nebraska, not you. It’s not my top priority.'"
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