Obama: Transparency and Open Government, Freedom of Information

These memos are circulating all over the Internet. I would guess they will soon be up on WhiteHouse.Gov.

“Government should be participatory.” I like it. For the many government friends, if you are looking for a source of ideas about how to use technology to operationalize such things, check out my slides and audio from “Great Expectations: After the vote – citizens online, e-democracy in governance, and White House 2.0.”

If there are 100 ways to try this and only five that work well, the challenge is to find the best options. When government messes up, it takes a generation for the bureaucratic scars to purge themselves. So don’t mess this up.

In terms of shifting the premise of Freedom of Information from reactionary to dissemination, check out the themes in my speech to the Personal Democracy Forum which essentially says all public government information should be online unless the law says otherwise. I suggested that in a real democracy we might get there in a number of years … now we might move toward that vision much sooner. Estonia is doing some of this already, but words on paper mean little compared to moving the culture of government toward openness.

Steven Clift Democracies Online E-Democracy.Org

P.S. I am interested in sharing an updated version of the presentation in DC and/or via a webinar. If you want to help organize something to help our government learn from past experience with e-democracy, let me know: clift@publicus.net

Transparency and Open Government

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary For Immediate Release January 21, 2009

January 21, 2009

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES SUBJECT:
Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.

Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the

Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary For Immediate Release January 21, 2009

January 21, 2009

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES SUBJECT:
Freedom of Information Act

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. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

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, and to publish such guidelines in the Federal Register. In doing so, the Attorney General should review FOIA reports produced by the agencies under Executive Order 13392 of December 14, 2005. I also direct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to update guidance to the agencies to increase and improve information dissemination to the public, including through the use of new technologies, and to publish such guidance in the Federal Register.

This memorandum does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

No Comments to “Obama: Transparency and Open Government, Freedom of Information”

  1. E-Demokratie.org » elektronische Demokratie Says:

    links from TechnoratiSunlight Foundation » Memorandum on FOIA — Sunlight Foundation » Memorandum on Transparency — Steven Clift’s Notes – Democracies Online »Obama: Transparency and Open Government, Freedom of Information— eDemocracy » The network effect — DEMOS-Monitor » Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien indiziert Weblog zu Magersucht — Benchmarking e-government in web 2.0 » Google Translate: a soft revolution in intercultural dialogue

  2. CrapHammer Says:

    links from TechnoratiCreated an inter-agency task force to identify lawful options for how detainees are handled and treated. Halted the use of torture by America and it’s agents. And last, but certainly not least, he wrote amanifesto in memo formfor open government that caused me to break into tears.  It is based on three principles:  Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration.

  3. CrapHammer Says:

    links from Technoratishould never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve..” I’m assuming this is legitimate.  It’s not yet posted to whitehouse.gov (ironically).  Source:http://www.dowire.org/notes/?p=451I started this post in answer to this urge to wait and see.  For how long, I have to ask?  Barack has done more in his first few days than I could have ever dreamed possible.  But if we think this is about him, then he will fail. This is about each

  4. All Things Reform Says:

    links from TechnoratiThings Reform Mobile: allthingsreform.mofuse.mobi >Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121 (not toll-free) >US House/Senate Mobile: bit.ly/members >Contact your reps tips: bit.ly/dear >Shortened All Things Reform URL: bit.ly/dw Related articles by ZemantaObama: Transparency and Open Government, Freedom of InformationMemorandum on FOIA

  5. E-Democracy.Org - Project Blog | E-Democracy.Org - Project Blog Says:

    links from Technoratiof the Change.gov Web site into the structure of WhiteHouse.gov. This month we briefly point out memorandums from the Obama administration regarding openness in government and greater access to government/public information. Take a look at thememoon the DoWire.Org site. Back to Top

  6. The Common Room Says:

    links from TechnoratiWhat he said in January: My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our


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