Immediate Release: November 12, 2008
Obama administration can act quickly to restore openness, according to new transparency proposals
Dozens of groups sign on to recommend openness from Day One
For more information contact: Thomas Blanton/Meredith Fuchs - 202/994-7000
Logo of the Web site of President-elect Barack Obama
Washington D.C., 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. Read the FOIA Proposal.
- 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. Read the PRA Proposal.
- 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. Read the Classification Proposal.
The Archive actively participated in the development of a broad set of openness recommendations, released yesterday and spearheaded by non-profit organization OMB Watch. The new report, Moving Toward a 21st Century Right-to-Know Agenda, provides recommendations for the new president and Congress to restore openness and enhance transparency through the use of 21st century technologies. Other transparency proposals, such as one released recently by the Sunshine in Government Initiative, demonstrate a growing consensus among a wide range of groups that government openness is a critical action area for the new administration.