Thursday, March 19, 2009

Administration confirms commitment to democratic values

News out of Washington that the Obama administration had issued guidelines expanding the release of government records is a reassuring sign that the new American government is serious about reversing the damage of the Bush administration. The guidelines released Thursday by Attorney General Eric Holder are the practical application of President Barack Obama's Jan. 21 order expanding the reach of the Freedom of Information Act, which acknowledges the fundamental principle that the public owns what the government has and does. ''We are making a critical change that will restore the public's ability to access information in a timely manner,'' Holder said in a written statement, according to the Associated Press. The new rules basically restore the standard in effect under Attorney General Janet Reno when Bill Clinton was president, and reverse the Bush administration's presumption against releasing documents. Holder also said the administration would be reconsidering the Bush administration's refusal to turn over documents in civil lawsuits challenging the government's conduct in the war on terror, including jailing suspects indefinitely and domestic wiretapping, the AP said. Obama had given Holder until May to develop the guidelines but the government's quick release of them suggest that the change was under consideration well before Obama became president in January.

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