White House Issues Open Government Directive

December 8, 2009

Plan Is Welcome Step Toward Increasing Transparency And Accountability, Says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) today issued an "Open Government Directive" instructing government agencies and departments to take specific actions to increase "transparency, participation and collaboration" in government, with the aim of creating "an unprecedented and sustained level of openness and accountability in every agency."

Significantly, the directive establishes deadlines for action and imposes guidelines for publishing government information and improving the quality of that information. The directive also orders each agency to establish an "Open Government Plan" that details how it will incorporate transparency, opportunities for public participation and inter-agency collaboration into its core mission objectives.

The directive does not apply to classified security information and makes an exception for "information whose release would threaten national security."

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

"We welcome today's release of the much-anticipated Open Government Directive, particularly because it sets out specific, concrete steps that agencies must take in order to fulfill the Obama administration's stated goal of increased government transparency. As the directive itself makes clear, the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration are fundamental to our democracy.

"While the Obama administration should be commended for the issuance of this directive, we remain concerned that executive agencies are invoking national security concerns as a pretext to suppress records that relate to government misconduct. We are particularly concerned about the Defense Department's refusal to release photos relating to the abuse of prisoners, the CIA's refusal to release information about black sites overseas and the Justice Department's refusal to release the legal memos that supplied the basis for the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. While we appreciate the steps that the Obama administration has taken to increase government transparency, the administration's stated commitment to transparency has not yet translated into real change on information relating to national security policy. 

"Nonetheless, the Open Government Directive is an important document and a significant step in the right direction, and we look forward to seeing it implemented. We urge the administration to ensure that all executive branch agencies comply with the directive's deadlines and benchmarks." 

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