President Obama Reestablishes Openness for Government Documents

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on January 21, 2009

News release: “On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama signed an executive order and two presidential memoranda heralding what he called a “new era of openness.” Announcing a Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act to reestablish a presumption of disclosure for information requested under FOIA, President Obama said that “every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.”

President Obama also issued an executive order reversing changes made by President George W. Bush to the Presidential Records Act (PRA), stating he would hold himself and his own records “to a new standard of openness.” The PRA order permits only the incumbent president (and not former presidents’ heirs or designees or former vice presidents) to assert constitutional privileges to withhold information, and would provide for review by the Attorney General and the White House Counsel before a president could claim privilege over his or her records.

Finally, President Obama also today issued a Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government which recognizes that “[o]penness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” It directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Chief Technology Officer, and the Administrator of the General Services Administration to develop an Open Government Directive within 120 days to implement the memo.”

  • January 26, 2009 Federal Register: Memorandum of January 21, 2009 of Freedom of Information Act Memorandum of January 21, 2009 and — Transparency and Open Government
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