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Taking notes

PRESIDENT Reagan's offer to disclose his personal notes taken during the Iran-arms decision period, at least those pertinent to Congress's inquiries, was generous enough at this time. If it is established that crimes were committed, it may be necessary to ask for the larger body of handwritten daily notes Mr. Reagan has been taking for an eventual book. If Congress wants more, there will be time enough later to consider confrontation over disclosure, such as had occurred during the Nixon period over the Watergate tapes. Notes taken by Reagan biographer Edmund Morris, who talks with the President regularly, should also be exempt from congressional impounding.

The privacy, privilege, and confidentiality issues of the two sets of notes differ. But they share a common base: There should be some initial work stage where thoughts and doubts, and conversations, can be put down without fear of disclosure. Unless some compelling legal matter argues otherwise, this should be true for public persons no less than private.

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