Keeping true to his promise of transparency, President Barack Obama issued an order today taking the first step toward lifting the veil of secrecy that had shrouded government information for the last eight years.
According to a White House statement:
"In The Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government (pdf), and the Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act (pdf), the President instructs all members of his administration to operate under principles of openness, transparency and of engaging citizens with their government. To implement these principles and make them concrete, the Memorandum on Transparency instructs three senior officials to produce an Open Government Directive within 120 days directing specific actions to implement the principles in the Memorandum. And the Memorandum on FOIA instructs the Attorney General to in that same time period issue new guidelines to the government implementing those same principles of openness and transparency in the FOIA context."
Government-transparency advocates had hoped for such a decree. They have long decried restrictions on information set off by the October 2001 memo issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft telling federal agencies that his office would support their decisions to withhold information. Ashcroftâs memo stated:
"When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions."
Ashcroftâs memo reversed the memo on FOIA issued in 1993 by Attorney General Janet Reno.