Tuesday, July 6, 2010

President Obama’s Commitment to Openness vs. The Slow Pace of Changing Culture in Washington

The Future of FOIA

On his first full day in office, President Obama issued a memorandum that directed agencies to lean toward openness when responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, thereby reversing the Bush Administration’s long trend toward secrecy. Attorney General Eric Holder followed the President’s memorandum in March 2009 with guidance that instructed agencies to make disclosures whenever possible, while acknowledging the importance of the FOIA exemptions to protect national security and personal privacy. AALL was very pleased with these actions and views them as a promising sign of the Administration’s commitment to changing the culture in Washington from one of secrecy to one of affirmative disclosure.

On Tuesday, July 13, at 2:15 the AALL Government Relations Committee (GRC) is sponsoring an exciting and timely program moderated by GRC member Susan Nevelow Mart, The Future of FOIA (J1). The panel will feature Miriam Nisbet, Director of the new Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives and Records Administration, and Anne Weismann, Chief Counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Ms. Nisbet will provide an update on the progress she and her staff have made in educating agency personnel about FOIA requirements and mediating FOIA disputes between agencies and requestors. OGIS was established under the OPEN Government Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-175), legislation which the Government Relations office staff had helped develop and which AALL strongly supported for many years. We were very pleased when Ms. Nisbet, long a friend of libraries, became the first Director of OGIS in September 2009.

Ms. Weismann, a respected FOIA expert, will offer an assessment of how well agencies are meeting the new mandates. CREW is a frequent FOIA requestor and has led many efforts to increase public access to government information. Through her work at CREW, Ms. Weismann has been involved in the lawsuit to make public the Bush Administration’s previously missing emails.

With such distinguished speakers, this is a program you won’t want to miss. We look forward to seeing you there!

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