Thursday, January 22, 2009

FOIA policy changes

Obama issued several policy orders related to the Freedom of Information Act. The biggest one was an instruction to agencies to consider FOIA requests starting with a presumption that information should be disclosed unless a good reason could be found not to disclose it. This is in stark contrast to the policy under Bush and Ashcroft, which was that information should not be disclosed unless the agency absolutely could not find any reason at all to restrict access to it. Another order also instructed agencies to not wait for citizens to specifically request access to information but to consider ways to actively make it available to the public.

This is the way government should work.

I'd also note that it's a practical advantage. If a President builds up a track record of being open, and a record of having a good reason for it on those occasions when he's secretive, people are going to cut him some slack and assume that, when he's got to keep something secret and can't discuss it, he's got a good reason for it this time too.

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