President Obama Signs Documents Promoting Transparency & Freedom of Information


On his first full day in the White House, President Obama signed two Memoranda and an Executive Order that promote openness and transparency in government by encouraging public disclosure and freedom of information.

Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government

President Obama announced that, under his Administration, government will be transparent, participatory, and collaborative.  He ordered his Chief Technology Officer, the Director of OMB, and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, instructing executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing these principles.

Click to read the full text of the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.

Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act

President Obama reaffirmed the importance of FOIA as a prominent expression of our democratic commitment to government accountability and transparency, quoting Justice Louis Brandeis:  “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”   To “usher in a new era of open Government,” the President said that agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure in response to all FOIA requests.  He also encouraged agencies to take affirmative steps to make information public even in the absence of FOIA requests.  The President ordered the Attorney General to issue additional guidance to executive departments and agencies, in keeping with these principles.

Click to read the full text of the Memorandum on FOIA.

Executive Order on Presidential Records

President Obama revoked former President G.W. Bush’s Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001.  Former President Bush’s Order had allowed former presidents, vice presidents, and some family members to assert executive privilege, preventing release of presidential records.  The new Executive Order alters procedures in favor of disclosure, giving the National Archivist a greater role in reviewing claims of executive privilege.

Click to read the full text of the Executive Order on the Presidential Records Act.

For more on these stories:

Obama Issues Executive Orders Promoting Government Transparency, Open Records, 77 U.S.L.W. 2439.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, On First Day, Obama Quickly Sets a New Tone, NY Times (1/21/2009).

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