Obama calls for open government

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By Roger Snodgrass

In one of his first acts as President Wednesday, President Barack Obama ordered heads of executive departments and agencies to side with openness in administering the Freedom of Information Act.

“All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA,” he wrote.

Obama’s directive, to be published in the Federal Register, instructs the Attorney General to issue new guidelines and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to update guidance to the federal agencies that reflect the new commitment to transparency and accountability.

In his inaugural speech Tuesday, Obama foreshadowed his intention.

“And those of us who manage the publics dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government,” he said.

Leonard DeLayo, executive director of the Foundation for Open Government in Albuquerque called the President’s commitment “a breath of fresh air.”

“That’s the first time I’ve even heard a President mention open government let alone put it in his inaugural speech,” he said this morning.

We’ll have to wait and see how the bureaucracy handles that,” he added. “But any time anybody comes out in favor of transparency it seems to help the overall climate. With a statement like that from the President, it gives us additional momentum.”