FoI in the USA: Era of Open Government? Only time will tell

To expand openness and transparency, the Obama administration has rescinded a Bush administration standard on withholding government documents, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday, reports

All Obama administration departments and agencies will release documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act unless doing so is forbidden by law or would harm a government interest, Holder said.

In 2001, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft issued guidance to the Bush administration that the Justice Department would defend decisions to withhold records "unless they lack a sound legal basis."

But Holder says the new guidelines are designed to ensure greater openness and transparency.

"Now the department will defend a denial only if the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by [federal laws] or disclosure is prohibited by law," Holder said.

The attorney general said the new administration wants to "usher in a new era of open government." Holder said the new rule for officials facing whether to grant a request for information is clear: "In the face of doubt, openness prevails," he said.

'Era of open government' behind information policy reversal
(, 20 March 2009)

See also: Obama releases internal Bush Justice Department memos (CNNPolitics, 2 March 2009) - The Obama administration released nine previously secret internal Justice Department memos and opinions defining the legal limits of government power in combating terrorism. The Bush administration had refused to make the documents public, rejecting demands from congressional Democrats.