[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 15 (Monday, January 26, 2009)]
[Presidential Documents]
[Pages 4681-4684]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-1773]

[[Page 4681]]


Part IX

The President


Memorandum of January 21, 2009--Freedom of Information Act

Memorandum of January 21, 2009--Transparency and Open Government

                        Presidential Documents 

Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 15 / Monday, January 26, 2009 / 
Presidential Documents


Title 3--
The President

[[Page 4683]]

                Memorandum of January 21, 2009

Freedom of Information Act

                Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and 

                A democracy requires accountability, and accountability 
                requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, 
                ``sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.'' 
                In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act 
                (FOIA), which encourages accountability through 
                transparency, is the most prominent expression of a 
                profound national commitment to ensuring an open 
                Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea 
                that accountability is in the interest of the 
                Government and the citizenry alike.

                The Freedom of Information Act should be administered 
                with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, 
                openness prevails. The Government should not keep 
                information confidential merely because public 
                officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because 
                errors and failures might be revealed, or because of 
                speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should 
                never be based on an effort to protect the personal 
                interests of Government officials at the expense of 
                those they are supposed to serve. In responding to 
                requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies 
                (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of 
                cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are 
                servants of the public.

                All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of 
                disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the 
                principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era 
                of open Government. The presumption of disclosure 
                should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

                The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies 
                should take affirmative steps to make information 
                public. They should not wait for specific requests from 
                the public. All agencies should use modern technology 
                to inform citizens about what is known and done by 
                their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

                I direct the Attorney General to issue new guidelines 
                governing the FOIA to the heads of executive 
                departments and agencies, reaffirming the commitment to 
                accountability and transparency, and to publish such 
                guidelines in the Federal Register. In doing so, the 
                Attorney General should review FOIA reports produced by 
                the agencies under Executive Order 13392 of December 
                14, 2005. I also direct the Director of the Office of 
                Management and Budget to update guidance to the 
                agencies to increase and improve information 
                dissemination to the public, including through the use 
                of new technologies, and to publish such guidance in 
                the Federal Register.

                This memorandum does not create any right or benefit, 
                substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in 
                equity by any party against the United States, its 
                departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, 
                employees, or agents, or any other person.

[[Page 4684]]

                The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is 
                hereby authorized and directed to publish this 
                memorandum in the Federal Register.
                    (Presidential Sig.)

                THE WHITE HOUSE,

                    Washington, January 21, 2009

[FR Doc. E9-1773
Filed 1-23-09; 11:15 am]
Billing code 3110-01-P