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Reporters Committee calls Bush FOIA order a good first step

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The Reporters Committee today called President Bush's Executive Order to streamline the federal Freedom of Information Act operations of federal…

The Reporters Committee today called President Bush’s Executive Order to streamline the federal Freedom of Information Act operations of federal agencies a good start to making the government more accountable and open.

“This is a good first step, showing that the administration recognizes the public need for greater transparency,” according to Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish.

“The administration seems to recognize that in the post-September 11 period, not enough information has been getting out,” she added.

Bush today signed an Executive Order titled “Improving Agency Disclosure of Information,” which requires agencies to create service centers and designate public liaisons. It also calls for “tangible, measurable improvements” in processing requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the administration on establishing the new liaison offices,” Dalglish said. “Obviously, they’re recognizing that they’ve had big problems in the past in handling public and press requests for information.”

The order requires that each agency create a FOIA Requester Service Center, and designate a senior official to act as chief FOIA officer for that agency. The senior official must be at the level of an Assistant Secretary or the equivalent, which means that the head of FOIA implementation for each agency will be a political appointee.

For more information, see the News Media Update article, “Bush order aims for accessibility for FOI Act requests,” available at: www.rcfp.org/news/2005/1214-foi-bushor.html

The Executive Order is available at: www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/12/20051214-4.html