Noel Schutt

On the road to government accountability

Yesterday Obama sent an important memo to the heads of departments and agencies in the executive branch. The President wrote:

A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike. The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.

This reverses the Bush administration’s assumption that information should be private unless it must be released:

Any discretionary decision … to disclose information protected under the FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information. (John Ashcroft, Attorney General, 2001-10-12)

The new policy is an important step in the long overdue return to government accountability.

Found through the EFF: On Day One, Obama Demands Open Government