The American Library Association (ALA) would like to thank President Obama for following through on his promise of transparency. On January 21, during his first day in office, President Obama signed a Transparency and Open Government Memo, as well as an Executive Order on Presidential Records.
The transparency memorandum dictates that the Chief Technology Officer, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Administrator of General Services are “to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, with in 120 days … that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum.” The speed at which President Obama is enacting this memorandum is promising. The ALA was also pleased to see that President Obama’s “Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use.”
The Executive Order on Presidential Records revokes President Bush’s Executive Order 13233. Under this Executive Order, former Presidents and Vice Presidents will be notified of the intent to disclose Presidential records that the Archivist “believes may raise a substantial question of executive privilege.” They will then have 30 days to review the documents and if they do not claim executive privilege, then the records will be released under the Freedom of Information Act. If executive privilege is claimed then the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President “shall review as they deem appropriate the records covered by the notice and consult with each other, the Archivist, and such other executive agencies as they deem appropriate concerning whether invocation of executive privilege is justified.”
Presidential records are an important resource for historians and the larger public, and it is vital that these papers are made available. President Obama has made a great step forward in ensuring that the American public has access to the documents of its government.
Jessica McGilvray, Assistant Director
Office of Government Relations
ALA Washington Office