Thursday, January 22, 2009

President Obama Speaks Out For Information Freedoms On First Day In Office

Feather News

President Barack Obama, during his first full day as President, issued a memorandum ordering government agencies to examine Freedom of Information Act requests with a bias toward release of documents. The intent of the memorandum contrasts with criticisms of secrecy in the Bush administration.

"For a long time now there's been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known," President Obama said.

The President's "Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government" was immediately hailed by open government advocates. The memorandum directs government agencies to "harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public."

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) said, "The right to know is a cornerstone of our democracy. Without it, citizens are kept in the dark about key policy decisions that directly affect their lives. Without open government, citizens cannot make informed choices at the ballot box. Without access to public documents and a vibrant free press, officials can make decisions in the shadows, often in collusion with special interests, escaping accountability for their actions. And once eroded, these rights are hard to win back.

"As we celebrate the inauguration of our new President and the start of a new administration, we are reminded that a free, open and accountable democracy is what our forefathers envisioned and fought to create. I believe that it is the duty of each new generation to protect this vital heritage and inheritance. In this New Year, at this new and historic time for our Nation, I am pleased that we have once again reaffirmed a commitment to an open and transparent government on behalf of all Americans."