Obama Administration Can Act Quickly to Restore Openness

National Security Archive

Washington, DC, November 12, 2008 – The Obama administration can act quickly after taking office in January to reverse the secrecy trend of the last eight years and restore openness in the executive branch,
according to a set of new proposals posted online today by the National Security Archive. More than 60 organizations joined the recommendations, which call on President-elect Obama to restore efficiency and openness to the Freedom of Information Act process, reform the classification system to reduce overclassification and facilitate greater declassification, and ensure that presidential records are handled in accordance with the law and Congress’ intent.

“President-elect Obama can make a difference on Day One in the way his administration relates to the public,” explained the Archive’s general counsel Meredith Fuchs. “Secrecy got out of control in the last eight years, but a few focused directives will go a long way towards reopening the government.”

A diverse coalition of groups convened by the National Security Archive developed the three proposals. If adopted, the recommendations would establish the needed framework for accountability, integrity, and
greater effectiveness in the federal government. The proposals call on the president-elect to take the following actions during his first days in office:

* Issue a memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act that establishes a policy of maximum possible public disclosure of government records and directing an attorney general memo that reinstitutes the presumption of openness under FOIA, calls on agencies to use technology to engage with and inform the public, and commits to creating a more collaborative and less adversarial relationship with the public on issues involving access to information.

* Revoke President Bush’s executive order on the Presidential Records Act, which undermined the PRA by purporting to create new constitutional privileges for the family members and descendents of former presidents
and for former vice presidents; commit to working with NARA and Congress to ensure necessary oversight for the transfer and processing of the Bush presidential records; and establish a policy for the new administration to preserve all presidential records of administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value.

* Issue a presidential directive rejecting prior abuses of the classification system and tasking the relevant executive branch agencies to develop a new executive order on classification that will reduce overclassification, add internal mechanisms to prevent classification abuses, ensure consideration of the public interest throughout the lifecycle of classified information, and improve the declassification process and information sharing.

Visit the Web site of the National Security Archive for more information about today’s posting and to read the full text of the new proposals:  http://www.nsarchive.org

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