Obama on the Freedom of Information Act


Wow. This is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to see, but was skeptical would actually come to pass.

I was encouraged to see this also.

Holy shit, if the ATF follows this I will truly cry tears of joy.

It will be interesting to see if they make contractors subject to FOIA. Currently AFAIK, they are not (we weren’t and I am employed by a government contractor), and much of what is interesting/questionable happens at government contractors, particularly for military stuff.

This is the kind of politics I have previously only dreamed of. I really hope it works out, and becomes an example for other democracies to follow.

Does this mean he’s going to release the remaining details of the Kennedy assassination early?

I’m a bit torn on this actually. At first glance, it seems completely awesome and brilliant. However, exposing every mistake the government makes might just make us even MORE cynical about our politicians? This could actually undermine confidence, which can have serious effects on the economy. It could also lead to the Democrats losing power. After all, the American people don’t know all of the previous administrations mistakes (even if they are also disclosed people won’t read up on the past that much, IMO). But they’ll be able to see every new mistake, and it will be all over the news.

I think the good might outweigh all of that, but I still think there is some room for caution here.

Believe or not, taxpayer dollars go to a lot of good things. Unfortunately those good things do not make good press, nor do they generally get people to watch Carl’s Jr commercials. On the other hand, any given government entity could easily respond to a request by sending 20,000 pieces of paper. Journalists can certainly have fun with that :)

Are you sure about contractors, because that wasn’t my experience at a national lab, which, like most if not all of the labs, is run by a contractor.

In any case FOIA has a number of exemptions and it doesn’t override other statutes and regulations that limit dissemination of national security and defense information–regulations like ITAR. So I don’t think any of that interesting / questionable military stuff is coming out as a result of Obama’s policy change.

Hmm, I suspect you were at Los Alamos:), as you may suspect I am employed by Caltech as part of JPL. Caltech routinely turned down FOIA requests. Now any information that was produced in the performance of the contract that was turned over to NASA, would be available through NASA, but not from Caltech. And things like policies, etc, were claimed as propietary information by Caltech and therefore not subject to FOIA.

It will be interesting to see if this will change. And not everything all military contractors do is by definition classified; in some cases they have to seek that designation. As an example, JPL did unclassified work for the Army and for all I know might still be doing that kind of work.

ITAR doesn’t necessarily prohibit dissemination of material to US citizens. It is not a security classification, it is export control. Export control and SBU stuff isn’t likely to end up on the web.

Heh. Yes, I realize our government does FAR more good than bad. But as you say, the bad is what people will notice and play up. It will provide plenty of fodder for Obama’s political opponents, and not much that he’ll be able to use, precisely because of the tendency to ignore the good.

Sweden practices an extremely open policy regarding government information and court records. All information not expressly classified (medical records, social services records, secret military stuff, etc) is open to the public and must be supplied without charge to anyone who demands it, anonymously if so desired.

Practically it is a policy that has worked very well at it’s intended purpose, keeping the goverment policies open and honest. However, since goverment information includes a ton of personal information collected by the government, from declared income to car registries and a slew of others, they allow people to gain personal information from their fellow citizens in ways that can be very prone to abuse. And with records now computerised and increasingly available online the effort of gathering this personal information is now minimal. What could take several days and a personal visit to a government agency can now be done in mere minutes online.

That’s the main concern I have with our system today. Transparancy is for the benefit of the citizens, the government should not hide anything from them without very good reason to believe that disclosure would harm a third party. Citizens on the other hand should be entitled to not share their personal information unless they expressly want it to.

As someone who has filed a large number of federal FOIA requests (mostly FDA related) I would be thrilled to see this actually happen. I’m currently too cynical to believe anything yet.


The Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, is trying to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails.

Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush’s eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama’s Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration’s bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.

During its first term, the Bush White House failed to install electronic record-keeping for e-mail when it switched to a new system, resulting in millions of messages that could not be found.

The Bush White House discovered the problem in 2005 and rejected a proposed solution…

om Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, noted that President Barack Obama on his first full day in office called for greater transparency in government.

The Justice Department “apparently never got the message” from Obama, Blanton said.

So, is this an honest mistake on Obama’s part, or is he actively trying to quash the bush emails?

Yeah, as someone who follows the National Security Archive, I was disappointed to hear this too.

You’re not the only one.

Of course they’re trying to quash the lawsuits. The Obama administration has made it very clear that they’re not going to support any efforts that could lead to a messy, drawn out legal process or any kind of justice seeking against the former administration. Obvious they’re taking policy steps to reverse or fix various things Bush did, but they’re extremely against themselves or anyone else going after Bush, Cheney et al.

It isn’t necessarily about “going after” Bush and Cheney. Its about making sure that millions of e-mail chronicling the Bush presidency are not lost to history. The NSA is working quickly because of the nature of digital communication. E-mail is erased and lost so easily, and who knows where they even are.

This isn’t 18 1/2 min of missing Nixon tape. This is years of internal White House communication that may just be sitting around on a disc somewhere. Imo, its important for the NSA to find out if the e-mails still exist and if so, do everything possible to retrieve them.

The lawsuit is not against Bush, Cheney, et al. It’s against Obama, Biden et al.