The Freedom of Information Act lists eight broad exemption categories covering specific areas, and has one item, Section b(3), which says that information can be exempted from disclosure by other statutes without mentioning FOIA at all. New legislation introduced last week by Sens. Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn would require any new b(3) exemptions to specifically reference FOIA, so they'd be easier to spot.

Continue ReadingLeahy/Cornyn Bill Would Help ID FOIA’s ‘Hidden Exemptions’

President Barack Obama yesterday reversed a Bush administration policy making it easier for government agencies to deny requests for records under FOIA, and repealed Bush's executive order allowing former presidents or their heirs to claim executive privilege in order to keep records secret, the New York Times reports. "For a long time now there's been too much secrecy in this city," Obama said during a swearing-in ceremony for senior officials. “Transparency and rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency." Secrecy News calls it a "breathtaking series of statements and executive actions" that "gained immense force from the fact that it was presented on the President’s first full day in office." To read the text of the memos Obama issued to effectuate the changes, click here. MORE: Reaction from the Sunshine in Government Initiative and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.

Continue ReadingObama Reverses Bush Policies on FOIA and Executive Privilege

Today the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI) is urging the administration of President-elect Barack Obama to take four immediate, concrete steps to strengthen open government. The coalition of media organizations that includes AAN is pressing the administration to restore the presumption of disclosure across the executive branch; create an independent, online FOIA ombudsman; ban agencies from proposing or endorsing unnecessary statutory exemptions from disclosure; and speak on the record in all policy statements and current news about public matters. "These actions would show President-elect Obama intends to fulfill his pledge to restore open government in Washington," SGI coordinator Rick Blum says in a release.

Continue ReadingEnsure Openness, Media Groups Tell Obama Administration