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Workshop on Government Openness Is Closed to Public

Alex Wong/Getty Images Update (4:34 p.m.): This afternoon, the Office of Information Policy, part of the U.S. Department of Justice posted some of its training materials from that workshop online. OIP has other training materials posted online as well. Those materials include an overview of President Obama’s FOIA memorandum and Attorney General Eric Holder’s FOIA guidelines and an overview of FOIA procedures.

As we continue to track the Obama administration’s record on transparency, we thought we’d point out an Associated Press story from Sunday reporting how an open-government training for federal employees who handle Freedom of Information Act requests is closed to the public and the press:

We'd like to know, when they're training agencies, are they telling them the same thing they're saying in public, that they're committed to making the Freedom of Information Act work well and make sure that agencies are releasing information whenever possible while protecting important issues like individual privacy and national security," said Rick Blum, coordinator of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, of which the Associated Press is a member.

President Barack Obama promised transparency in his administration from the second day he was in office. But his record on openness, while an improvement over that of the previous administration, has been far from perfect. The closed training is just one example. As for the administration’s response, here’s the AP again:

The official in charge at the conference, Melanie Ann Pustay, offered these reasons to explain why it was closed: She wanted government employees to be able to speak candidly, and the conference would be in an auditorium at the Commerce Department, where she said a government ID was required to be admitted.

The story points out that journalists routinely visit federal buildings as part of their reporting.

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