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Uploaded on Jan 24, 2009
On his first full day as President, Barack Obama issued two Executive Orders and three Presidential Memorandum that will start an era of transparent and Open Government. The White House Office of the Press Secretary released a statement outlining the sweeping changes to be implemented by the Obama administration. In his Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, and the Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, President Obama instructed ... all members of his administration to operate under principles of openness, transparency and of engaging citizens with their government. To implement these principles and make them concrete, the Memorandum on Transparency instructs three senior officials to produce an Open Government Directive within 120 days directing specific actions to implement the principles in the Memorandum. And the Memorandum on FOIA instructs the Attorney General to in that same time period issue new guidelines to the government implementing those same principles of openness and transparency in the FOIA context.
President Obama emphasized that his Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. He furthermore said in a press conference announcing his Memoranda: For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.
Obamas bold initiative for Open Government reflects the influence of the Co-Chair of his Presidential transition team, John Podesta. Podesta has long been an outspoken advocate of Open Government. On September 16, 2008, he gave a speech before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution titled Too Much Secrecy Puts Our Nation at Risk.
Along with Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, Podesta helped craft the Clinton Administrations efforts to implement greater government openness through the passage of Executive Order 12958. Passed on April 17 1995, EO 12958 made it easier to declassify national security information that had been unnecessarily classified for decades. The Bush administration later neutralized key sections of EO 12958 thereby making it harder to declassify documents.
Less well known is that in October 22, 2002, Podesta petitioned for the release of UFO files that had been unnecessarily classified. He said: "I think it's time to open the books on questions that have remained in the dark on the question of government investigations of UFOs.