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January 21, 2009

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Apo Papa

Here is something more about FOIA and the Obama administration:

Washington, D.C., January 21, 2009 - 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."

The FOIA Memorandum articulates a presumption of disclosure
for government records and a hostility to the use of secrecy
laws to cover up embarrassing information. It directs the
Attorney General to issue new guidelines governing FOIA and
the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to
improve information dissemination to the public.

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 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.

"This is the earliest and most emphatic call for open
government from any president in history," said Archive
director Tom Blanton. "President Obama has reversed two of
the most dramatic secrecy moves of the Bush initiatives, one
that told agencies to withhold whatever they could under
FOIA and the other that gave presidential heirs and vice
presidents the power to withhold presidential records
indefinitely."

In November 2008, the National Security Archive and a
coalition of more than 60 organizations called on President
Obama to reverse the secrecy trend and issues new directives
on openness on Day One of his presidency. Today, President
Obama heeded that call and took decisive action to ensure
that openness, transparency, and accountability would be the
rules and not the exceptions for his administration.

"President Obama is doing what he said he would do from the
campaign trail. He is trying to transform how the public
will learn about government decisions and actions" said
Meredith Fuchs, the Archive's General Counsel. "I hope his
decisive leadership on these issues pushes the bureaucracy
to make these principles a reality -- to give us an
accountable, democratic, national government."

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