Washington Post: New Obama Orders on Transparency, FOIA Requests. In a move that pleased good government groups and some journalists, President Obama issued new orders today designed to improve the federal government’s openness and transparency. The first memo instructs all agencies and departments to “adopt a presumption in favor” of Freedom of Information Act requests, while the second memo orders the director of the Office of Management and Budget to issue recommendations on making the federal government more transparent.
This is indeed good news. The Bush administration’s fanatical devotion to secrecy was at least as much about keeping the public from finding out scandalous behavior as protecting information that, if disclosed, might endanger national security.
We all need to hold Obama’s feet to the fire on this. His administration will inevitably fall, at least on occasion, into what afflicts all governments: a wish to keep embarrassing (or worse) information from the public.
As I noted in an item that was part of a series for the Knight Citizen News Network a while back, “A key point about the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and various state “open records” laws: They are not designed solely for journalists, although that is the popular mythology, sometimes encouraged by professional journalists. They are for everyone, not any special profession or group of people.”
Now we’ll have a better chance to use them well.