The Secret Sharer

How can Obama promote openness and transparency in government?

In the current issue of CJR, we challenged Barack Obama to eschew the furtive secrecy that characterized the Bush administration—”an administration in which the executive’s lust for power outstripped the public’s right to know”—and conduct his presidency in an open and transparent manner. We argued that, among other things, the new president should:

* Instruct the attorney general to restore the presumption that exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act are designed to prevent “foreseeable harm,” rather than to be used as expandable excuses to deny requests.

* Issue an executive order restoring the intent of the Presidential Records Act, making the government the owner and executor of past presidents’ papers, rather than a mere custodian for as long as an ex-executive or his heirs want certain documents under wraps.

* In his first budget, restore, as Congress intended, the Office of Government Information Services to the National Archives and Records Administration, and remove it from the Justice Department, where conflicts of interest on transparency abound.

We proposed several other ideas (found here), but we’d like to hear some of yours. What measures should Barack Obama take to promote openness and transparency in government? What should he avoid? We’ll pool these suggestions with the ones from our editorial and deliver the final list to the Obama administration in Washington, D.C.

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.