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Obama Edicts Boost FOIA and .gov Websites 400

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the breath-of-fresh-air dept.
Ian Lamont writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the National Security Archive are praising President Obama's executive orders to make the federal government more open. Yesterday, Obama issued two memos and one executive order instructing government agencies to err on the side of making information public and not to look for reasons to legally withhold it. The moves are expected to make it easier for people to file Freedom of Information Act requests, and should also boost the amount of information that agencies place on their websites. The general counsel for the National Security Archive (an NGO that publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act) even predicts that agencies will use blogs to share information. Obama's directives reverse a 2001 memo from former US Attorney General John Ashcroft instructing federal agencies to generally withhold information from citizens filing FOIA requests."
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Obama Edicts Boost FOIA and .gov Websites

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  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:50AM (#26560375)

    The courts had ordered the Pentagon to release additional prison torture pics and vids, stuff Congress had viewed in private and turned a lot of stomachs. Currently the Pentagon is illegally sitting on these pics. Can we get all the ugly in the open so we can start to earn our respect back?

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:00AM (#26560517) Journal

      The courts had ordered the Pentagon to release additional prison torture pics and vids, stuff Congress had viewed in private and turned a lot of stomachs. Currently the Pentagon is illegally sitting on these pics. Can we get all the ugly in the open so we can start to earn our respect back?

      You can find the DoD's FOIA request information here [dod.mil]. I'm not entirely sure which sub department that would fall under but you could try with the military first [army.mil].

      They should help you:

      Please note that this office is not a repository for documents maintained or released by the Department of the Army. Requests received in this office will be forwarded to the activity that has the responsibility for the subject matter requested. For a more timely response, please refer to the POC listing to ensure your request is submitted to the proper office.

      After reviewing the POC listing, if you are still unsure which agency to contact, you may submit a request to the Department of the Army Freedom of Information Office, 7701 Telegraph Road, Suite 144, Alexandria, VA 22315-3905 and we will attempt to assist you. Requests to this office can also be sent electronically by emailing: DAFOIA@conus.army.mil, or Facsimile (703) 428-6522.

      Address: Department of the Army Freedom of Information Act Office 7701 Telegraph Road, Suite 144 Alexandria, VA 22315-3905

      E-mail: DAFOIA@conus.army.mil Telephone: COMM (703) 428-6504 or DSN 328-6504 Facsimile: COMM (703) 428-6522 or DSN 328-6522

      FOIA requesters who have any questions concerning the processing of their requests at the US Army Freedom of Information Act Office, should contact this center at (703) 428-6504. If you are not satisfied with the response from the center, you may contact the FOIA Public Liaisons, Mr. Robert Dickerson or Mr. Steven A. Raho, at (703)428-6504, Army_FOIA_Liaison@conus.army.mil.

      There's a handbook online [dod.mil] if you have questions. If you want something from the State department or FCC, they have pretty easy request forms online. I'm thinking you'll just get a big fat rejection but who knows?

    • by FireStormZ (1315639) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:06AM (#26560621)

      There might be a real reason not to release the raw info on this to the public.

      1) Protect the folks who may have given up information under torture from retaliation
      2) Protect Soldiers who under orders committed torture from retaliation

      While some of this stuff needs to be released the equivalent of a words being blacked out is appropriate. For the victims and for the soldiers (who should be tried in court (military or civil) before their identities are relaeased.

      • by BorgDrone (64343) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:23AM (#26560877) Homepage

        Protect Soldiers who under orders committed torture from retaliation

        I agree with your first point, but IMHO soldiers who committed torture do not deserve protection. They could and should have refused to execute their orders.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Hordeking (1237940)

          I agree with your first point, but IMHO soldiers who committed torture do not deserve protection. They could and should have refused to execute their orders.

          Actually, soldiers are generally not any more privvy to information than you are. They're just told "this guy has information that will prevent <X-Deadly-Action>, and I need you to get it out of him." Of course, the soldier is trained to A) follow orders B) not worry about the ramifications (don't believe everything the army tells you about wanting brains) and C) is usually an 18-24 year old who wants to do the right thing.

          • by illegalcortex (1007791) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:11PM (#26561613)

            None of this explains how this absolves them of guilt. The same could be said of Nazi prison camp guards. They were told the jews and other political prisoners were dangerous and were destroying German society.

            It's not sufficient to be willing to die following orders. You must also be willing to die for disobeying immoral orders. Otherwise you're just a mercenary.

            • by knight24k (1115643) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:20PM (#26561777)
              And if true they should be tried in a court of law not the court of public opinion. Protecting their identities allows prosecution at a later date. Predisposing the entirety of the populace to their assumed guilt does a disservice to the innocent as well as making prosecuting the guilty more difficult.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by theaveng (1243528)

                While there might be a SMALL danger of vigilante justice, I consider that a small inconvenience compared to the great harm of the People's government keeping secrets & covering-up abuses.

            • by Hordeking (1237940) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:20PM (#26561785)

              None of this explains how this absolves them of guilt. The same could be said of Nazi prison camp guards. They were told the jews and other political prisoners were dangerous and were destroying German society.

              It's not sufficient to be willing to die following orders. You must also be willing to die for disobeying immoral orders. Otherwise you're just a mercenary.

              Immoral orders? By whose morality? The victor's. If the Germans had won, a completely different measure of morality would have been applied.

              At the risk of being called a troll or something, the guards working the concentration camps probably thought they were protecting their homeland. I'm no expert, and assuming they were drawn from the ranks (one could technically make the leap and consider lower ranking SS to also be ignorant). They were told these people were dangerous to their society. Did they have any reason not to believe it (I'd wager that the guards had no way to disprove their superiors in this matter). It wasn't clear-cut as if the jews, gypsies, and others were taking up arms.

              Be wary of moral relativism. You may consider your enemy immoral for wanting to kill you, but I'm entirely sure he considers it quite moral. The reverse is also true.

            • by Jaeph (710098) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:39PM (#26562101)

              "It's not sufficient to be willing to die following orders. You must also be willing to die for disobeying immoral orders. Otherwise you're just a mercenary."

              So if someone tells you to follow orders or your wife and family will be put into the prison camp, are you still a mercenary? Or are you caught in an impossible situation and trying to make a choice that nobody should have to make?

              I'm not saying that this was the situation in the American military, but let's not be so hasty to judge people. At least, let's presume them innocent, keep their identities secret, and follow-up in a measured manner rather than chance ruining their good names in the court of public opinion.

              -Jeff

        • by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:33PM (#26562007)

          They could and should have refused to execute their orders.

          How do you know they didn't? Very possible such a refusal would have resulted in one of the following scenarios; jail, very dangerous front line assignment, or placement beside the prisoner.

          Refusal to execute an order in the military is a life altering decision in the best of places. During wartime, it can be a life ending decision.

        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:40PM (#26562111)

          Soldiers, at least non-officers, are trained through very intense programs to always obey orders without question. They are not taught to get in arguments over their orders. What's more, they can face charges for refusing an order.

          The military isn't a big committee. It isn't something where you sit down and discuss what is going to be done until everyone is happy with it. It is a very rigid organization where you are told what to do by those above you and you do it. This is especially true at the enlisted "grunt" level. You are taught to do what your commander tells you, not ask why, and you are told that failure to do so may have serious consequences.

          I get real tired of people who are willing to tell others in tough situations how they "should" act. Think it's that easy? Try it then. Enlist, go through basic, see the kind of mental and physical conditioning soldiers are subjected to. See what the culture and rules are like. Then see if you think it's so easy to just say "Nope, don't like that order, not going to do it."

          Now please understand, I'm not saying you can't criticize the military's actions or that the people in charge shouldn't be held accountable. I'm saying that the people who were simply obeying orders can't. All logic aside, there's international law on the issue too. You can prosecute a low level soldier who was just doing what they were told to do.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:53PM (#26562303)

            When I was in the Marine Corps, assigned to a raid unit, we were informed that during a wartime assignment, any failure to obey a direct order is a crime whose maximum penalty is summary execution.

            Essentially, if you disobey the lieutenant or a sergeant, the guy can technically shoot you dead and give the order to someone else.

            It's a motivator...

            • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:30PM (#26564099) Homepage Journal

              We were told we had to obey all lawful orders. We were instructed that we were duty bound to disobey any order which violated the UCMJ. IOW, we didn't have to obey an order to torture someone, because it was against the Army's policy at the time.

              Well, that was before the Bush White House.

              The way I always thought of it was simply, "Could an officer make a case against me for refusing to obey this order?" In almost every case of torture or improper treatment, the answer would be no. In almost any other case, the answer would be yes. I'm not aware of any officer who would even attempt to justify an order to torture or kill prisoners to his superior. In fact, it just so happens that in the Marines, the case of Lt Col Chessani shows just the opposite. Some of his Marines ended up killing civilians in Haditha [onenewsnow.com], and he's now on trial for it. Had any of his subordinates admitted to ordering the killing of civilians, he most certainly would have had them court-martialled for doing so.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rossjudson (97786)

            Amen, brother. My own military training was minimal and in the very distant past, but arguing and thinking were just not part of the equation.

            Imagine this: You're on guard duty in front of a hospital, at an entrance that opens to a wide pedestrian square. The crowd is light. You see a woman, dressed locally, about 40 feet away, walking rapidly towards you. On your radio, a command is barked, from your CO: 'woman in dark clothes 12 o'clock walking towards you corporal shoot her NOW NOW NOW'.

            There are fifty w

          • by Scrameustache (459504) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:23PM (#26562849) Homepage Journal

            I'm not saying you can't criticize the military's actions or that the people in charge shouldn't be held accountable. I'm saying that the people who were simply obeying orders can't. All logic aside

            ARTICLE 93. CRUELTY AND MALTREATMENT [www.ucmj.us]
            Any person subject to this chapter who is guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

            In United States v. Keenan, the accused (Keenan) was found guilty of murder after he obeyed in order to shoot and kill an elderly Vietnamese citizen. The Court of Military Appeals held that "the justification for acts done pursuant to orders does not exist if the order was of such a nature that a man of ordinary sense and understanding would know it to be illegal."

        • by drew (2081) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:53PM (#26562305) Homepage

          I don't think that the soldiers should get legal protection for their acts, and it doesn't sound like the GP does either:

          For the ... soldiers (who should be tried in court (military or civil) before their identities are relaeased.

          I think his point was to keep them from being the target of vigilante retribution, which I agree with. The soldiers are not above the law, and should be held responsible for their actions. But those who would condemn them are not above the law either.

      • by rhakka (224319) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:24AM (#26560897)

        no one who commits torture for any reason should be protected from retaliation, orders or not.

        Illegal orders are still illegal, and our military personnel are trained to know that. Ignoring it and doing it just because "it's orders" is not a justifiable defense, IMO.

        • by Gavagai80 (1275204) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:30AM (#26561009) Homepage
          Anyone who commits murder is entitled to protection from the lynch mobs. Why not soldiers who commit torture?
          • by rhakka (224319) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:36AM (#26561099)

            good point, but lynch mob protection is not achieved by obscuring the identity of the perpetrator if the charge is murder. Criminal charges are a matter of public record.

            • by wvmarle (1070040)

              Criminal charges before or after a judge has ruled on them? It would become quite scary if being arrested for some crime and later released for being not guilty to that crime would still have your name connected to the case in a public record.

              Identities of criminals should be released only AFTER conviction, if only because before conviction, they are not criminals (or at least not found guilty to that particular crime). These videos are mere evidence, not convictions. A judge will have to decide on that fi

              • Before. You may not like it, but this is what we as a society have decided.

                These videos are state property. As such, they are public property.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by JWSmythe (446288) *

                It would be nice if that was the way it works.

                It's a matter of public record if a person has been arrested.

                It's a matter of public record to who is having a hearing when about what.

                It's even frequently leaked or released that an individual is a "person of interest" or a "suspect". That, in the public eye, is damning.

                Consider the Elizabeth Smart case. Richard Ricci died in prison, because he refused to confess. He was innocent. Br

          • Thanks, thats kind of what I was getting at.. You said it better than I..

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by wvmarle (1070040)

          The repercussions for a soldier of not following orders may be severe (in wartime this may be execution, and the US is formally at war against terror, drugs, and some other wars here and there).

          Furthermore, how can a soldier judge which orders are illegal? In case of torture: there is the fine line between allowed interrogation techniques and torturous interrogation techniques. Some say water boarding is OK, others say it is torture. How can a simple soldier judge this? Should he? He's a soldier after all,

    • What? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gatkinso (15975)

      >> Can we get all the ugly in the open so we can start to earn our respect back?

      Yeah. That worked so well with Abu Ghraib.

      Help the victims. Heal them physically and mentally. Pay them. Acknowledge wrongdoing. Admit guilt. State the facts. Do this all extremely publicly.

      But burn those goddamn pictures. All they will do is piss people off, no matter how hard you try to make things right.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rei (128717) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:35AM (#26561079) Homepage

        Let's play Situation Replacement, shall we?

        ----

        Location: Germany
        When: December 1945

        >> Can we get all the ugly from the Holocaust in the open so we can start to earn our respect back?

        Help the victims. Heal them physically and mentally. Pay them. Acknowledge wrongdoing. Admit guilt. State the facts. Do this all extremely publicly.

        But burn those goddamn pictures. All they will do is piss people off, no matter how hard you try to make things right.

        ----

        Sometimes the ugly needs to be seen.

        • Not only that... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jabbrwokk (1015725) <grant.j.warkentin@ g m ail.com> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:53AM (#26561355) Homepage Journal

          Good point, and not only that, but if the ugly isn't out in the open, eventually people will forget.

          If we didn't have all those awful photos and films of holocaust victims and emaciated survivors, in 20 years once all the people are dead who lived through that time period revisionist historians could argue that the holocaust really wasn't all that bad, and people would believe them.

          First-hand sources -- diaries, pictures, films, videos -- keep us all honest.

          • by troll8901 (1397145) <troll8901@gmail.com> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:10PM (#26561601) Journal

            Well said.

            Same as Japan. Currently their education ministers are trying their damnest best to hide all the torture and massacre [wikipedia.org] information.

            Japanese children grew up not knowing the crimes against humanity that their forefathers did 65 years ago.

          • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:51PM (#26562269) Homepage

            Good point, and not only that, but if the ugly isn't out in the open, eventually people will forget.

            Forget? How about fucking knowing something in the first place!

            There are plenty of Americans who still think that the entire abu Ghraib situation involved nothing more severe than barking dogs, panty-hats, and naked man-piles.

            They don't know about the detainees being beaten with table legs, repeatedly kicked in the groin, asphyxiations, male prisoners raped with broomsticks, female prisoners simply raped, and so on.

            Probably because to know about these things, you'd have to have actually read one of the various military reports which by their own admission cover only a portion of the abuses that went on. The TV news just focused on the pictures, particularly the one of the guy covered in a hood standing on a box, and a lot of the viewing public went "So what? That doesn't look so bad to me." A callous view to begin with, but tempered by the fact that they simply haven't seen or heard about the things that anyone would call torture.

            In a way I almost agree with the poster before who said that these other images shouldn't be released. I don't see any need to subject U.S. soldiers and victims to the judgement of the mob. But also, as far as repairing our image goes, I'm not sure it would do much good. We've already released many prisoners in Iraq, so all their family and friends around the country already know what went on, they don't need to be reminded with more pictures. Repairing our image means repudiating the policies that lead to the scandal, with action.

            On the other hand, releasing the videos and getting them on the news may at least inform more Americans as to why exactly we should feel we have to make up for this.

      • Bollocks (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Mr_Perl (142164) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:34PM (#26562021) Homepage

        Eisenhower had it right when after liberating a concentration camp he told the troops to pick up every scrap of film, every picture because someday some idiots would claim that it never happened.

        People should have their noses rubbed in it. Faces can be obscured to protect the participants but the American public needs to know what these people it elected did.

  • by rwa2 (4391) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:50AM (#26560377) Homepage Journal

    So, one point for "Technology Policy" ? The rest are still 0?

    • by Xiph (723935) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:54AM (#26560409)

      Transparency of government is not a technology issue, it's an administrative issue.
      Technology is just what is used to distribute information.

      so +1 for "Administration policies"
      also he gets +1 for taking the neutrality captain on board, that is a technology point

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        (IANAUSC; I Am Not A US Citizen.)

        A transparent government where citizens can moderate and verify what the government does is arguably important because it gives the citizens more power to make informed judgements.

        All too often I've seen in my country -which has something similar as FOIA- arguments why information should be withheld while it is important for the citizens to obtain this information. Think about something such as electronic voting and electronic medical files. The legal framework is there, but

      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        Hey, you're not supposed to complain about the lack of Slashdot poll options :>

        Plus, just about every memo and edict issued by the Barack Administration is an administration policy.

        Plus, they mentioned ".gov websites" :P

        But I am not a semantics nazi, I just want to play scoreboard :>

    • by keithjr (1091829)
      Steven Chu's [alternet.org] appointment has been approved by the Senate, so that should count as a +1 to the Science crowd.
    • by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:31PM (#26561961)
      The guy hasn't even been president for a week. Most presidents are given 100 days before people start complaining that they are not doing enough. Seriously, you can't expect him to get anything done, the half day that he was inaugurated, and the it is safe to assume that his first full day is spent figuring out where a punch of stuff was put. I'm actually pleasantly surprised that we have something so soon. I particularly pleased that it is something good instead of something seriously bad.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:52AM (#26560391)

    Now we can get the information about the Roswell / Area 51 connection!

    • by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:57AM (#26560465) Homepage Journal

      I think you'll be dissapointed.

      Turns out Area 51 was the dump site for all those unsold Atari 2600 E.T. game carts.

      • Re:Alien Technology? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:13AM (#26560721)

        Personally I think that Occam's razor applies to alien technology and Area 51:

        1. The U.S. government made contact with aliens over 50 years ago, have kept it quiet, and have been developing secret alien technology there.
        2. The U.S. military is experimenting with secret but terrestrial technologies there.

        I would think it would be #2. I remember reading about people spotting "triangular-shaped" UFOs in the 80s in that area. Of course UFO conspiracists declared it had to be alien vehicles. Then in 1988, the military acknowledged the existence of the F-117 Stealth Fighter developed by the Skunk Works division of Lockheed Martin.

        Interestingly, I think the military allows the UFO enthusiasts to espouse their theories unchecked. Even if their observations are correct (and they were about the F-117), most people would dismiss them due to their theories.

        • Re:Alien Technology? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gma i l . c om> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:34AM (#26561077) Homepage Journal

          The U.S. military is experimenting with secret but terrestrial technologies there.

          The frustrating part is that the successes of Area 51 are a matter of public record. The U-2 flew out of Area 51, the SR-71 flew out of Area 51, the F-117 was developed out of Area 51. With all these planes known to come out of Area 51, you'd think that people would give up on the whole "aliens from Roswell" thing. There are no flying saucers coming out of that area. Merely highly classified projects throughout the Cold War. There's even evidence to suggest that Area 51 operations have wound down in today's post cold-war culture. (See the government's official admission of Area 51's existence in 2003 for an example.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Todd Knarr (15451)

      The dirty little secret behind Area 51: that command consists entirely of a captain, a couple of lieutenants, several dozen enlisted men and a whole freakin' lot of printing presses. Their sole brief is to insure a constant stream of leaks to the media, mistakes and suspicious behavior centered around all the exotic alien technology stored there, so that all the effort of breaking the government's veil of secrecy concentrates where there's absolutely nothing to find. This'll make it much easier to conceal t

    • by styryx (952942)
      There is a video lecture series (wave physics 101 stylee) I can't remember the exact video but it was Berkley and Professor Richard A. Muller. The name is definitely correct.

      In one of the videos he proposes that what actually occured in Roswell was that the flying saucers (originally discs, and actually disc microphones) were built to listen for Soviet Nuclear detonation tests: there is a specific height in the atmosphere where sound waves spread out on the surface of a sphere (thus energy travels farthe
  • by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot <jamie@slashdot.org> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:54AM (#26560411) Journal

    I don't think the linked article provides links directly to the memos, but propublica [propublica.org] did, so here they are:

    Memo on Transparency and Open Government [amazonaws.com]

    Memo on the Freedom of Information Act [amazonaws.com]

    And here's the Executive Order on Presidential Records [whitehouse.gov], which makes clear that claims of secrecy by the former president and his subordinates will be evaluated, and accepted or rejected, by the current president.

  • "Open" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:57AM (#26560475)

    Is this on the same website yesterday that said "President Obama has not issued any executive orders" when in fact he had already done several?

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:58AM (#26560495) Homepage Journal

    One idea to make their websites more transparent would be to use 32-bit PNGs.

  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:00AM (#26560513)

    Now maybe I'll file a FOIA request with the BATFE to reveal the NFA registry contents (with personal names & addresses redacted, of course) to demonstrate errors and abuses, especially involving 922(o). Don't see how, under this EO, they could say "no". Results could be VERY interesting...

    (If you don't grok that, Google is your friend.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Neoprofin (871029)
      Google reveals: (all of this subject to verification that I'm not going to do)

      1. Won't happen unless you own the firearm because the records are considered tax-payer information.

      2. Some politicians might be slipping past the 1986 automatic weapons ban to register addition weapons and sell them for campaign money

      3. The exemption on paying the $200 tax stamp has been extended to members of law enforcement agencies purchasing them for duty use, while formally it applied only to orders made by the depa
      • In particular (Score:3, Interesting)

        I am kinda curious though which one OP was interested in.

        Aside from general curiosity and expectation that a peek in the registry would reveal some surprising facts...

        Per your comments:

        1. I'm wondering if "taxpayer information" could, under the new FOIA rules, be revealed so long as personally identifying info (name, address, etc.) was redacted. I don't care so much about who has registered, I'm wondering if certain obscure loopholes have been used to register otherwise prohibited items at all.

        2. That's the

    • by mariushm (1022195)

      I'll settle with ACTA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Counterfeiting_Trade_Agreement)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ratnerstar (609443)

      I'd also be interested in seeing the registry of the National Flute Association. It's time the flutists of America were driven out of the shadows!

      Seriously dude, spell out your acronyms; it's just common courtesy.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Flautists, dude. Flautists.

  • by FireStormZ (1315639) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:01AM (#26560541)

    I'm going to disagree with Obama more than I will agree with him but one should give credit where it is due... Open information is *critical* to nurture an informed populace and an informed populace is needed to care for a representative government.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slick_rick (193080) *

      Yeah, bashing him for a move like this is kinda like tossing a sack full of kittens into a lake. I was not terribly impressed with Mr. Obama or Mc. Cain, but I'm willing to give anyone a chance. So far so good, more transparency, taking steps to close camp X-Ray. At this rate, and if he gets my extended family members who are in Iraq home soon I may even come to like him. But then again we are only two days in ;-)

      • by d3ac0n (715594) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:26AM (#26560929)

        As a Conservative I am also more likely to disagree with what Obama's decisions and policy. But even I find this refreshing and good. The extreme secrecy lent to presidential and governmental documentation, current and past was not something I agreed with President Bush on. I'm happy to see Obama reverse this.

        Other conservatives agree as well. [hotair.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by oodaloop (1229816)

        taking steps to close camp X-Ray

        Wow, you really like keeping up with current events, huh? Camp X-Ray was shut down almost 7 years ago. Those images of orange jump suited inmates walking around behind a chain link fence with tents in the background that the media keep playing are 7+ year old footage of the temporary Camp X-Ray. Camp Delta is the permanent facility used since Camp X-Ray shut down in April 2002.

    • by klaun (236494)

      I'm going to disagree with Obama more than I will agree with him

      Well the important thing is you are keeping and open mind! No, wait...

  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:03AM (#26560577) Journal

    Does this executive order [whitehouse.gov] seem a little contradictory to anyone else (boost the "executive privilege" stonewall)?

    Admittedly, I may be misreading or misunderstanding it. My question is sincere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      (boost the "executive privilege" stonewall)?

      Since I don't know what preceeded it, I don't know the change. But it does seem reasonable. As I read it:

      The archivist gets all this stuff. He flags anything that may be sensitive to executive privledge. He notifies the former president whose administration created it and the current president and AG. The current president can withhold things. The former president can then ask the archivist to withhold those files, but the AG then has to sign off.

      And then,

      • That suggests that the current President/AG can override a former president's request for privilege?

        That's what I thought initially, but there's this bit...

        "Any determination under section 3 of this order that executive privilege shall not be invoked by the incumbent President shall not prejudice the Archivist's determination with respect to the former President's claim of privilege."

      • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:34AM (#26561059) Homepage

        This executive order is basically the same one that was created post-Watergate to try and ensure Presidential records were published and archived for posterity. Bush revoked it in a widely criticised move, Obamas EO revokes the revocation and is otherwise identically worded, except that it also now covers the Vice President, which can only be an improvement. So basically on day 1 of his new Presidency Obama is already undoing some of the damage Bush caused :)

    • by rednip (186217)

      Does this executive order [whitehouse.gov] seem a little contradictory to anyone else

      Only if you don't compare it to the Bush executive order which it replaces. Basically, it'll make it really hard for Bush to continue to hide the crimes of his administration.

      • Can't seem to find the text of that one to compare. Got a link? (No, this is not a [citation needed] style challenge. I'd like to compare them)

        • It was sealed under Executive Privilege.`

        • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@gm a i l . c om> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:44PM (#26562169)

          http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2001/11/eo-pra.html [fas.org]

          EXECUTIVE ORDER 13233
          FURTHER IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS ACT

          By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish policies and procedures implementing section 2204 of title 44 of the United States Code with respect to constitutionally based privileges, including those that apply to Presidential records reflecting military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, Presidential communications, legal advice, legal work, or the deliberative processes of the President and the President's advisors, and to do so in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court's decisions in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977), and other cases, it is hereby ordered as follows:

          Section 1. Definitions.

          For purposes of this order:

          (a) "Archivist" refers to the Archivist of the United States or his designee.

          (b) "Presidential records" refers to those documentary materials maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration pursuant to the Presidential Records Act, 44 U.S.C. 2201-2207.

          (c) "Former President" refers to the former President during whose term or terms of office particular Presidential records were created.

          Sec. 2. Constitutional and Legal Background.

          (a) For a period not to exceed 12 years after the conclusion of a Presidency, the Archivist administers records in accordance with the limitations on access imposed by section 2204 of title 44. After expiration of that period, section 2204(c) of title 44 directs that the Archivist administer Presidential records in accordance with section 552 of title 5, the Freedom of Information Act, including by withholding, as appropriate, records subject to exemptions (b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(4), (b)(6), (b)(7), (b)(8), and (b)(9) of section 552. Section 2204(c)(1) of title 44 provides that exemption (b)(5) of section 552 is not available to the Archivist as a basis for withholding records, but section 2204(c)(2) recognizes that the former President or the incumbent President may assert any constitutionally based privileges, including those ordinarily encompassed within exemption (b)(5) of section 552. The President's constitutionally based privileges subsume privileges for records that reflect: military, diplomatic, or national security secrets (the state secrets privilege); communications of the President or his advisors (the presidential communications privilege); legal advice or legal work (the attorney-client or attorney work product privileges); and the deliberative processes of the President or his advisors (the deliberative process privilege).

          (b) In Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, the Supreme Court set forth the constitutional basis for the President's privileges for confidential communications: "Unless [the President] can give his advisers some assurance of confidentiality, a President could not expect to receive the full and frank submissions of facts and opinions upon which effective discharge of his duties depends." 433 U.S. at 448-49. The Court cited the precedent of the Constitutional Convention, the records of which were "sealed for more than 30 years after the Convention." Id. at 447 n.11. Based on those precedents and principles, the Court ruled that constitutionally based privileges available to a President "survive[] the individual President's tenure." Id. at 449. The Court also held that a former President, although no longer a Government official, may assert constitutionally based privileges with respect to his Administration's Presidential records, and expressly rejected the argument that "only an incumbent President can assert the privilege of the Presidency." Id. at 448.

          (c) The Supreme Court has held that a party seeking to overcome the constitutionally based privileges that apply to Presidential records must establish at least a "demonstrated, speci

          • by geminidomino (614729) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:50PM (#26562253) Journal

            Holy shit...

            Sec. 4. Concurrence by Incumbent President.
            Absent compelling circumstances, the incumbent President will concur in the privilege decision of the former President in response to a request for access under section 2204(c)(1). When the incumbent President concurs in the decision of the former President to request withholding of records within the scope of a constitutionally based privilege, the incumbent President will support that privilege claim in any forum in which the privilege claim is challenged.

            Have I gone batty, or did Redneck Nero actually presume to dictate the actions of subsequent presidents there???

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:43AM (#26561193)
      It makes perfect sense to me. Basic guildelines:The Archivist of the Presidential records is in charge of maintaining the records. Obama's Executive Order:
      • Archivist will notify the current or former Presidents the intent to disclose records.
      • That President will have 30 days to object or claim executive privilege.
      • If executive privilege is invoked, the Archivist will not release said records until a determination by the Attorney General, Counsel to the current President, etc to determine if executive privilege applies.
      • If determined not privileged, the records will be released.

      This is different from Bush's Executive Order 13233 which states:

      • The Archivist must wait 12 years after the President has left office before any records are released.
      • The Archivist must wait 90 days between notifying a President or former President of intent to release and the actual release.
      • The records of a former President can only be released if the former Presidents concurs with the current President that they can be released.

      In Bush's Order, a former President can keep his records from being disclosed indefinitely simply by objecting to the release. No claim of privilege is required and no provision is made to override the objection. Under Obama, only executive privilege can keep records from being release and even then that claimed is reviewed. IANAL but that's how I interpreted it. Any lawyers care to comment.

  • by CrtxReavr (62039) <crtxreavr@tri[ ]imum.com ['opt' in gap]> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:17AM (#26560789)

    I found this very interesting:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/robots.txt [whitehouse.gov]

    The WhiteHouse.gov website's robots.txt file has been trimmed to:

              User-agent: *
              Disallow: /includes/

    Under previous administrations it was pages long. I suppose this may bode well for openness.

    -CR

    • by joggle (594025) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:54AM (#26561369) Homepage Journal

      The main page is also perfect XHTML code according to w3.org's validator. I don't know whether this was true for the previous administration's website or not. The code's also very readable, not sure what tool they used to create it though.

    • by uhmmmm (512629) <uhmmmm&gmail,com> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:57AM (#26561407) Homepage

      This has been debunked on reddit and probably other places.

      1) Bush's robots.txt began very similarly to Obama's, it grew later. Obama's robots.txt file starting small proves nothing. Look again in a year and see what it looks like then.
      2) The pages disallowed by Bush's robots.txt file were (almost?) all printer-friendly versions of pages which were not excluded. The information was still there and accessible to spiders.

      I'm no Bush fan, but let's limit the bashing to things that are actually true and meaningful, shall we?

    • by genner (694963)

      I found this very interesting:

      http://www.whitehouse.gov/robots.txt [whitehouse.gov]

      The WhiteHouse.gov website's robots.txt file has been trimmed to:

      User-agent: * Disallow: /includes/

      Under previous administrations it was pages long. I suppose this may bode well for openness.

      -CR

      Well at least we know which directory has the incriminating evidence.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:29AM (#26561001) Homepage

    While this is not entirely related to freedom of information, it is related to transparency, shining light on government corruption and rapid changes storming the executive.

    http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=42299 [cnsnews.com]

    This article reports what I heard over NPR on the drive home yesterday. The revolving door that has been a peeve to me and many others is being addressed in Obama's actions. A lot of people who set their lives up using te good ole boy system of mutual mack scratching will be very upset by this... and I hope they are! It is time these despicable practices come to an end.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:30AM (#26561013) Homepage

    Hmmm, I don't know - being allowed to just "know" what the government is doing seems a little fishy. How are they supposed to keep us terrified and docile if they can't pretend that they always, just barely, have the boogeyman on the point of a knife -- but it's too dangerous to let us see him? And if we are not terrified and docile, how can they maintain their lack of accountability? The lack of accountability that is the very hallmark of the modern United States political system.

    Honestly - the ideas this guy comes up with...

  • Privacy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ohio Calvinist (895750) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:32AM (#26561047)
    I just hope the government doesn't swing too far, and start exposing all that mountains of data programs produced under prgrams started by Bush; without first doing a real through check to see what kind of data is actually there. I'm only afraid the new cabinet will steamroll this EO to make Obama "look" effective without considering the true risk(s) associated with some of that information.

    However, I've always felt it is the right for a citizen (or consumer) to aquire data from any agency which collects data about him/her self in unfiltered form, regardless of the risk(s).
  • by MadMidnightBomber (894759) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:26PM (#26561883)

    Barack Obama has a remarkable gift for oratory, but does it mask a fatal indecisiveness, asks Janet Daley. [telegraph.co.uk], "what I sense in Obama's love for abstract concepts and diffuse rhetorical devices is not so much the use of language as a facilitator of action, but as a way of disguising lack of decision."

    Well, Janet, it would appear that you couldn't be any more wrong if you tried with both hands.

    I would have read more of the article, but the sheer amount of EPIC BITTER in the comments crashed my browser.

  • AWESOME!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by crhylove (205956) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:20PM (#26562785) Homepage Journal

    Now can we find out:

    Who killed JFK?
    How the twin towers came down?
    Test results for Project Silverbug?

    Thanks in Advance!

  • by thered2001 (1257950) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:47PM (#26563287) Journal
    The Obama administration will more easily (and rightly) be able to say "Don't blame us, the problem already existed when we arrived...see for yourself." Hopefully, lots of the closeted skeletons will see the light of day.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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