Mar 21, 2009

AG Holder changes FOIA guidelines.

Thursday, Holder released new guidelines for complying with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). His intent is to make government more accessible and transparent. From Jurist:
The new guidelines, designed to increase transparency in government, will rescind the Attorney General's FOIA Memorandum of October 12, 2001, which stated that the Department of Justice would defend decisions to withhold records "unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records." Instead, the Department of Justice will defend a denial of a FOIA request only if (1) the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions, or (2) disclosure is prohibited by law.
This is a good thing for severals reasons and on many levels. In January, President Obama released a memo directing all department heads and agencies to lean towards transparency when dealing with FOIA requests. A section of his directive below:
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.

The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

I direct the Attorney General to issue new guidelines governing the FOIA to the heads of executive departments and agencies, reaffirming the commitment to accountability and transparency.
Good on ya President Obama...good on ya dude.

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