Friday, January 23, 2009

Undoing Bush: Obama orders easier access to public records.

To say that the Obama administration has hit the ground running is almost an understatement. Here he, on day one, fulfills yet another of his campaign pledges; this time ensuring that the government is open and transparent.

President Barack Obama, in his first full day in office, revoked a controversial executive order signed by President Bush in 2001 that limited release of former presidents' records.

The new order could expand public access to records of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the years to come as well as other past leaders, said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

"It's extraordinary that a new president would address this issue on his first full day in office," Aftergood said. "It signifies the great importance he attaches to open, accountable government. The new order suggests President Obama will take a narrow view of executive privilege and assert it in a much more limited way than what we've seen in the recent past."

Under Bush's order, former presidents had broad ability to claim executive privilege and could designate others including family members who survive them to exercise executive privilege on their behalf.

Obama's new order gives ex-presidents less leeway to withhold records, Aftergood said, and takes away the ability of presidents' survivors to designate that privilege.
The Bush regime seemed to forget that the entire principle is supposed to be that the president works for, and is ultimately answerable to, the people.

To this end it is vital that their records can be examined and that the public can find out what they did behind closed doors.

Bush, outrageously, attempted to keep those doors locked from the public gaze at the president's, or even his family's, discretion.

Obama has thrown that door wide open again.
"For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city. This administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but with those who seek it to be known," Obama said before a gathering that included his senior staff. "The mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."
Excellent. Simply excellent. He really is starting to undo the damage which Bush wrought.

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