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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Won’t Get Fooled Again: Day 1

And so, Team Obama greets the first day of Government Information Liberation with, among many other things, the recision of G.W. Bush’s infamous Presidential Records Executive Order. But a closer reading of the press release and the order itself proves to be more nuanced. As it states in the news release about the new executive order:

“This order ends the practice of having others besides the President assert executive privilege for records after an administration ends. Now, only the President will have that power, limiting its potential for abuse. And the order also requires the Attorney General and the White House Counsel to review claims of executive privilege about covered records to make sure those claims are fully warranted by the Constitution.”

So the new order consolidates the power of review back into the current White House, which we all hope is much more enlightened than other political powers. Is it a true revocation of the early Bush doctrine? Maybe yes, maybe no. It would be much better to have statutory language that makes clear which records are reviewable and which are not, otherwise each administration can change the intent of the law according to its own political whim.
Perhaps only a new law, such as the Presidential Records Act of 2009 can take this descision making power from the politics of executive and/or legislative will.

On another front, it will be very interesting to see how the policies and programs of Obama will be distinguished from those of Bush. Web pages may change, as demonstrated by the Obama White House web site; but so many other Bush decisions and laws he signed while in office will remain in effect that swapping out Secretaries or Cabinet level officers won’t necessarily lift the yoke of Bush doctrine completely.

This will be a very, very good season to be a government information librarian.

As a reminder — with government information liberation day now in the rear view mirror, I am shifting my focus on the next few months, calling these daily blog entries, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in honor of the wonderful 1971 song by the band The Who. We are in time frame of a few months when a series of critical discussions will take place at various national level librarian conferences. It starts with the ALA midwinter confab in Denver at the end of this week. followed by at least three other meetings before the gathering during July in Chicago for ALA’s annual gig.

To this end, I am resetting (and renaming) the discussion time clock. 140 days to consensus on the future role of libraries in the fabric of our civic information exchange.

See you on Day 2.

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