Quotes of the Month

August 2014

"House Republicans and Senate Democrats may finally have found something on which they are both so exercised about [sic] that they may actually get together and do something: transparency." POLITICO columnist (and frequent CGS panelist) Josh Gerstein, excitedly predicting passage of what would be the 2014 FOIA Amendments, under the title "Stars May Be Aligning for Transparency Legislation" (July 21, 2014).

July 2014

"Apparently we have reached a situation in which the executive branch feels justified in lying to the Supreme Court, which is charged with interpreting the ultimate governing document of our society, our Constitution, simply because that executive branch decided to stamp certain information as 'classified.'" Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, referring to the Justice Department's arguable position that it "was justified in deceiving the Supreme Court [during oral argument in Clapper v. Amnesty regarding warrantless surveillance] because that information was classified at the time," in an article entitled "Secrecy Is a Cancer on our Democracy" (June 6, 2014).

June 2014

"[N]o more secrecy; that's the commitment I make to you as president. No more secrecy!" Candidate Barack Obama, in a 2008 campaign speech, as quoted by PBS in a Frontline program about the continued government secrecy surrounding NSA telecommunications surveillance activities, entitled "United States of Secrecy, Part One -- The Program" (May 13, 2014).

"Alas, Google, unlike God, neither forgets nor forgives." Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, arguing in dissent that "[o]nce a secret is disclosed online, neither the courts nor society may unring the lingering echo of the bell," in 2-1 decision upholding the invocation of Exemption 7(C) to protect the identities of persons investigated through the use of warrantless cell phone tracking data and then charged with a crime but not convicted, ACLU v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. 13-5064, slip op. at 5 (D.C. Cir. May 9, 2014) (Brown, J., dissenting).

May 2014

"In resisting disclosure of the OLC-DOD Memorandum, the Government contends that making public the legal reasoning in the document will inhibit agencies throughout the Government from seeking OLC's legal advice. The argument proves too much. If this contention were upheld, waiver of privileges protecting legal advice could never occur." Circuit Judge Jon O. Newman, writing for a unanimous Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel in N.Y. Times Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, Nos. 13-422, 13-445 (2d Cir. Apr. 21, 2014), which held that the Department of Justice must release at least part of its Office of Legal Counsel's legal opinion justifying the controversial "targeted killing" drone program.

April 2014

"[T]he attorney work-product privilege . . . is not subject to discretionary release like deliberative process is." OIP Director Melanie A. Pustay, grossly misstating the law in an attempt to explain to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (at a FOIA oversight hearing) why there was a greatly increased use of Exemption 5 during a recent annual FOIA report year (Mar. 11, 2014).

March 2014

"I'm a proud Republican, but I believe that the order given by President Obama [i.e., the Holder Memorandum "foreseeable harm" standard] was the right order. The order given by President Bush [i.e., the Ashcroft Memorandum "sound legal basis" standard], perhaps in light of 9/11, perhaps in light of other considerations, might have seemed right at the time, but [today we should] codify [the Holder Memorandum's "foreseeable harm"] requirements [as] the standard law of the land." House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa (R. Cal.), during House floor consideration and passage (by a vote of 410-0) of H.R. 1211, the "FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act" (Feb. 25, 2014).

"This is a big step in the right direction of preserving that part of a democracy that calls for transparency. And so I agree with the Chairman: This is so much bigger than us, this is not just about this moment, this is about generations yet unborn." House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Minority Member Elijah E. Cummings (D. Md.), during House floor consideration and passage of H.R. 1211, the "FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act" (Feb. 25, 2014).

February 2014

"We will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities . . . we can and should be more transparent . . . ." Statement of President Barack H. Obama ("Remarks by the President on Signals Intelligence") (Jan. 17, 2014).

January 2014

"[T]he government appears to adopt the cavalier attitude that the President should be permitted to convey orders throughout the Executive Branch without public oversight -- to engage in what is in effect governance by 'secret law.' Such a position conflicts with the very purpose of FOIA, for it is '[w]ithout question' that [the] FOIA is 'broadly conceived . . . to permit access to official information long shielded unnecessarily from public view and attempts to create a judicially enforceable public right to secure such information from possibly unwilling official hands.'" U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, rejecting the government's application of the presidential communications privilege to Presidential Directive on Global Development ("PDD") 6, an articulation of "global development policy objectives and priorities," in Ctr. for Effective Gov't v. U.S. Dep't of State, Civil No. 13-0104 (ESH) (Dec. 17, 2013) (citations omitted).

December 2013

"The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists," said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. "And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange." Washington Post (Nov. 25, 2013).

November 2013

"It's important to note that the FOIA statute itself does not address days when the federal government is closed for government shutdowns, furlough days, snowstorms . . . or other unusual events. Specifically, the law states that agencies have '20 days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays)' to respond to FOIA requests and appeals, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i) & (ii)." Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) guidance correctly advising agencies that "working days" under the FOIA excludes only weekends and holidays. "Shutdown Didn't Stop FOIA Clock" (Oct. 24, 2013).

October 2013

"We never comment on our sources." Paul Colford, Director of Media Relations for the Associated Press, commenting upon entry of the guilty plea of former FBI employee John Sachtleben, who had admitted to being the source of the leak to the AP about a foiled terrorist bombing plot that led to the Justice Department obtaining telephone records of AP employees, as reported in The Washington Post (Sept. 23, 2013).

September 2013

"[The Director General of the Nigerian National Orientation Agency] called on all Nigerians to be active participants in the successful implementation of the Freedom of Information Act in a way that will restore sanity into public administration at all levels of government for an enduring social, political and economic transformation of the country." Nigerian Tribune, commenting on ongoing implementation of Nigeria's 2012 freedom of information law (Aug. 21, 2013).

August 2013

"Every bill has a chance." Philippine legislator Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., commenting either optimistically or derisively on recent efforts to "revive" longstanding efforts to enact a FOIA in the Philippines, as reported at Tempo, "FOI Bill OK Pushed" (July 15, 2013).

July 2013

"[We need to] reinforce our corporate culture of secrecy" through an "Honor the Oath" campaign. CIA Director John O. Brennan, in an internal anti-leak memorandum reportedly leaked to the Associated Press on June 26, 2013.

June 2013

"Shielding government officials and civil servants from the light of public scrutiny will, at best, increase voter apathy. At worst, it will lead to public policy that harms Denmark's citizens. Such a negative move could also provide cover for other world leaders who would cynically use Denmark's example to suppress democracy in their own countries." Alison Bethel McKenzie, Executive Director of the International Press Institute, reacting to a legislative proposal by the Danish government to reduce public access under its freedom of information law (May 13, 2013).

May 2013

"Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, 'The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.' But since the Freedom of Information Act, I'm afraid to say things like that." Then-Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, quoted by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as reported in Salon (Apr. 8, 2013).

April 2013

"[T]he 2009 Open Government Directive instructed agencies with a significant backlog of FOIA requests to reduce their backlogs by 10 percent each year. But of the 11 cabinet agencies with more than 500 backlogged requests in fiscal year (FY) 2009, only three met the 10 percent reduction goal each year: the Departments of Health and Human Services, the Interior, and the Treasury. Three other agencies met the goal in two years out of three, while the remaining five agencies met their goal in only one year. There was no year in which every agency met the assigned goal." Center for Effective Government, Delivering on Open Government: The Obama Administration's Unfinished Legacy at 14 (March 2013) (discussed at CGS's FOI Day program, Mar. 18, 2013).

March 2013

"What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security." CIA Director-Designee John O. Brennan, (double)speaking on the deadly drone issue at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee (Feb. 7, 2013).

February 2013

"Quick fixes are not always readily available for the issues that our open government movement seeks to address." Obama Administration spokesperson Lisa Ellman, Chief Counselor for the Open Government Partnership, Executive Office of the President, addressing open-government community concerns at CGS's "Transparency in the Obama Administration -- A Fourth-Year Assessment" program (Jan. 17, 2013).

January 2013

"Fifty-six agencies have not updated their Freedom of Information Act regulations since the passage of the OPEN Government Act of 2007, which mandated that agencies reform their fee structures, institute request tracking numbers, publish specific data on their FOIA output, and cooperate with the new FOIA mediators at the Office of Government Information Services." Report issued by National Security Archive based on governmentwide audit, pointedly entitled "Outdated Agency Regs Undermine Freedom of Information" (Dec. 4, 2012).

December 2012

"FOIAonline [is] as of October 1 a multi-agency, shared-services portal . . . the first such effort to have multiple agencies participating and together offering the ability for a FOIA requester to come to one place to make a FOIA request to one or more than one agency; to be able to track that request; for the agencies to be able to process and handle the request; and also ultimately at the end of the process, when the records are released, to have them available, again at that one place, so that anyone can see both what has been requested and what has been disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act." Miriam M. Nisbet, Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), at the National Archives and Records Administration, describing a governmentwide FOIA initiative spearheaded by OGIS (without the Justice Department), together with the Environmental Protection Agency and three other agencies including the Department of Commerce, on the radio program FEDtalk (Nov. 16, 2012).

November 2012

"Anyone who works at the department (U.S. Justice Department) that [sic] wants to push an agenda for political purposes does so at his or her peril. It's almost impossible to get away with it." Spoken transparently (albeit belatedly) by former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales during a small political gathering at the Cumberland School of Law of Samford University, as reported by Alabama Media Group (Oct. 16, 2012).

October 2012

"We can talk about whether this was a legitimate law enforcement investigation or not -- and the scope of it and the timing of it -- in public. . . . I was deeply, deeply troubled [by what has been filed in Court]. . . . To protect the information, the government is going to have to establish in this courtroom, in 2012, that when the FBI spied on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King -- fifty years ago -- the information was 'compiled for law enforcement purposes' in the course of a criminal investigation." District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, from the bench at an August 28 hearing held in Memphis Publishing Co. v. FBI, Civil No. 10-1878 (ABJ) (D.D.C.), a FOIA case involving alleged confidential source records pertaining to Ernest Withers, a noted photographer of the civil rights movement, as reported in National Law Journal, "In Records Spat, D.C. Federal Judge Wants Answers From Top DOJ Officials" (Aug. 28, 2012).

September 2012

"The Department of Justice Office of Information Policy's latest report on the status of FOIA . . . paints an overly laudatory picture of the status of FOIA in the U.S. . . . the DOJ OIP is engaging in grade inflation [and] has, once again, cooked its books." National Security Archive assessment entitled "New DOJ FOIA Report an Exercise in 'Grade Inflation'" (Aug. 15, 2012).

August 2012

"No matter how extensive, the WikiLeaks disclosure is no substitute for an official acknowledgement and the ACLU has not shown that the Executive has officially acknowledged that the specific information at issue was a part of the WikiLeaks disclosure." Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, granting judgment to the State Department in the first FOIA decision, ACLU v. Department of State, No. 11-01072 (CKK) (D.D.C. July 23, 2012), on records widely believed to have been disclosed to the public by WikiLeaks.

July 2012

"The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong." President Barack Obama, speaking of current "leaks" controversies firmly but carefully (i.e., with the qualifiers "White House," "purposefully," and "classified") at a White House News Conference (June 8, 2012).

June 2012

"So the cure for corruption is openness, and by belonging to the Open Government Partnership, every country here is sending a message to [its] own people that we will stand for openness. And we're going to hold ourselves accountable." Current Secretary of State (and former Clinton Administration transparent accountability advocate) Hillary Rodham Clinton, at the opening session of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Annual Meeting in Brasilia, Brazil (Apr. 17, 2012).

May 2012

"They covered it up? That's what we're saying here -- that the Feds killed Rashad Debbs and they got rid of the body and the evidence? Well, let's find out. How? We force their hands: We file a Freedom of Information Act request, we get them in court. . . . it's the only way." The Firm, NBC Television Network (Mar. 3, 2012) (using such dramatic dialogue as pivotal plot device, followed even more surreally by next-day development: "How is that possible? . . . Our FOIA request was granted, for tomorrow!").

April 2012

"As the authors of the OPEN Government Act, we are very troubled that the Department's proposal is inconsistent with . . . the plain language of that law and with our intent." Senators Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn, demanding to know why the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy (OIP) so pointedly claimed a FOIA "ombudsman" role in the face Congress's decision in the 2007 FOIA Amendments to place that responsibility in the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives and Records Administration instead (Mar. 26, 2012).

"[T]he Milner case was released more than a year ago [but] the Justice Department hasn't approached me or my staff about legislation to address the impact of the decision, so maybe you could tell me why the Justice Department hasn't submitted a legislative proposal -- if in fact there is a threat to public safety, . . . isn't it irresponsible to ignore the problem?" Senator Charles Grassley, asking why the Obama Administration inexplicably delayed for more than a year to state its need for an amendment to Exemption 2 at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee (Mar. 13, 2012).

"It's impossible to predict [what Congress will do] but I can make one prediction, and that is that It is highly likely that next year during Sunshine Week the Washington College of Law will once again host a program on [FOI Day] and the Collaboration on Government Secrecy will assemble a fantastic panel that may even include some of our panelists yet again, to discuss what Congress did or didn't do in the intervening time and what the new plans for the new Congress and new administration, whoever that might be, could be." Thomas M. Susman, in concluding remarks as moderator of the "Legislative Outlook" panel at CGS's "Fifth Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration" (Mar. 16, 2012).

March 2012

"Don't confuse the sudden surge of transparency by the leading Republican presidential candidates with a commitment to open up the inner workings of the federal government -- or their campaigns. In their hands, transparency has been a club to beat an opponent with until he produces information he'd rather keep private." Associated Press, "Candidates Use Transparency as a Club" (Jan. 25, 2012).

February 2012

"Despite useful bells and whistles, the site is beset with technical glitches and low quality data." Analysis under the heading "FOIA.gov Fails to 'Shine a Light,'" published by OpenTheGovernment.org and discussed at CGS's FOIA Community Conference entitled "Transparency in the Obama Administration -- A Third-Year Assessment" on January 20, 2012.

January 2012

"More than a week after media reports revealed that proposed Office of Government and Information Services [OGIS] recommendations to improve federal Freedom of Information Act implementation have been awaiting the Office of Management and Budget's approval for nine months, OMB has taken no further public action, although discussions about the recommendations are allegedly ongoing." Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, "FOIA Recommendations Still Awaiting Approval" (Dec. 2, 2011).

December 2011

"Ergo, DOJ is now saying that if you request information about an investigation into yourself (or an informant or a broad range of classified intelligence information), they can first lie and say they don't have those records, and then quickly destroy them, in case a judge deems them responsive after all." Conclusion reached by single commenter (Emptywheel, under heading "This FOIA Request Will Self-Destruct in 10 Seconds"), albeit without specific reference to new language in proposed regulation subsections 16.4(a) and 16.9 (Nov. 15, 2011).

November 2011

"It's not often that the liberal American Civil Liberties Union and conservative Judicial Watch agree on anything, but the Obama administration's lack of transparency has brought the two together." Washington Examiner editorial reacting to the Justice Department's utterly inexplicable decision to propose a FOIA regulation on the subject of record exclusions (Oct. 31, 2011).

October 2011

"Thank you for embracing this challenge to make sure our governments are as open and accountable and as effective as they can be, so that we can meet the aspirations of all our citizens." President Barack Obama, in his closing remarks to the heads of other nations at the official launch of the Open Government Partnership in conjunction with a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City (Sept. 20, 2011).

September 2011

"[White House visitor log records] are properly considered 'agency records' subject to FOIA." United States District Judge Beryl A. Howell, rejecting Bush Administration position counterintuitively continued during Obama Administration, in Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Secret Serv., No. 09-2312, slip op. at 14 (D.D.C. Aug. 17, 2011).

"None of these arguments, singly or in concert, holds up." United States District Judge James E. Boasberg, rejecting Bush Administration and Obama Administration under-implementation of "penalty provision" of 2007 FOIA Amendments, found at 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(viii), in Bensman v. Nat'l Park Serv., No. 10-1910, slip op. at 13 (D.D.C. Aug. 10, 2011).

August 2011

"A report released by the National Security Archive found that only about half of the Federal agencies surveyed have taken concrete steps to update their FOIA policies in light of the President's reforms. According to the Department of Justice's Annual FOIA Report for FY 2010, more than 69,000 FOIA requests remain backlogged across our Government. These delays are simply unacceptable." Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, on the 45th anniversary of the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (July 4, 2011).

July 2011

"Federal CIO Vivek Kundra's departure from government is going to be a serious blow to federal IT programs, if the first wave of reaction to the news is any indication." Federal Computer Week, "After Kundra: What Next?," commenting also that "budget cuts hit e-gov efforts hard" (June 16, 2011).

June 2011

"... the public disclosure of information in a written FOIA response forever taints that information for purposes of the public disclosure bar." Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority in Schindler Elevator Corp. v. United States ex rel. Kirk, No. 10-188, slip op. at 11, 12 (U.S. May 16, 2011), a case that required the Court to consider whether "FOIA responses necessarily lead to unusual consequences."

May 2011

"If this is transparency, who needs it?" Steven Aftergood, Director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, speaking of the Obama Administration's White House visitor log policy, the results of which he labeled "very thin gruel" (Apr. 13, 2011).

"A White House official conceded the system has limitations, asserting it was designed not as an archive but 'first and foremost to protect the first family, second family and White House staff while imposing the smallest administrative burden possible.'" POLITICO, "White House Visitor Logs Leave Out Many" (Apr. 15, 2011).

April 2011

"[W]e acknowledge that our decision today upsets three decades of agency practice relying on Crooker, and therefore may force considerable adjustments." Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the Court in Milner v. Department of the Navy, No. 09-1163, 2011 WL 2454156 (U.S. Mar. 7, 2011).

March 2011

"Regardless of whether FOIA requests are subject to the same rules governing discovery requests, Rule 34 [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] surely should inform highly experienced litigators as to what is expected of them when making a document production in the twenty-first century. . . . common sense dictates that parties incorporate the spirit, if not the letter, of the discovery rules in the course of FOIA litigation." United States District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, ruling that a FOIA requester is entitled to receive "metadata," "load files," and other forms of "electronically stored information" in National Day Laborer Organization Network v. United States Immigration Customs Enforcement Agency, No. 10 Civ. 3488 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2011), subsequently withdrawn due to settlement (S.D.N.Y. June 17, 2011).

February 2011

"Secrecy is not over." OMB Watch Executive Director Gary D. Bass, summarizing the first two years of Obama Administration transparency effort at CGS's "Transparency in the Obama Administration -- A Second-Year Assessment" program (Jan. 20, 2011).

January 2011

"And it takes forever to get the documents." Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr., giving a quick rejoinder to government counsel's observation that the federal government receives "a very large number of FOIA requests," during oral argument in Milner v. Department of the Navy, No. 09-1163 (Dec. 1, 2010).

December 2010

"The Open Government process is our new paradigm." Beth S. Noveck, United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director, White House Open Government Initiative, summarizing why she says prospective FOIA requesters should instead "write to the Open Government person," because "of course if you [make a FOIA request] you're gonna wait months and months and months and they're not gonna get back to you . . . that's how FOIA works." Speech to the American Constitution Society (Nov. 15, 2010).

November 2010

"In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world." Address by President Barack Obama to the U.N. General Assembly (Sept. 23, 2010).

October 2010

"You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it." Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, revealing in his memoirs the depth of his regret over supporting freedom of information legislation in England, which he says led to transparency being used as a "weapon" by journalists against his government. Tony Blair: A Journey (Sept. 2010) ("For political leaders, it's like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, 'Hey, try this instead,' and handing them a mallet.").

September 2010

"Implementation is the crux of all this, I agree . . . it isn't a real achievement until we follow through on our commitments. [T]he open government community will watch us like hawks, and frankly it helps us to keep on our toes." OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Associate Administrator Michael Fitzpatrick, speaking about implementation of Obama Administration transparency policies (Aug. 16, 2010).

August 2010

"The World Bank estimates that more than one trillion dollars in bribes are paid each year out of a world economy of 30 trillion dollars. That's a staggering three percent of the world's economy. And the impact is particularly severe on foreign investment. In fact, the World Bank estimates that corruption serves, essentially, as a 20-percent tax. Put simply, corruption undermines the promise of democracy. It imperils development, stability, and faith in our markets. And it weakens the rule of law." Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., speaking of the global battle against corruption (through accountability and, at bottom, transparency) before the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France (May 31, 2010).

July 2010

"In the 10 years I've been doing this job, not a single reporter has called for help in securing 'high-value data sets' from the federal government." Lucy A. Dalglish, Executive Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, speaking of agencies' "disappointing" implementation of Open Government Directive through emphasis on electronic public access to public databases rather than on greater FOIA disclosure (News Media & The Law, Winter 2010).

June 2010

"Some powerful forces are still out there to prevent a constitutional right ... It should really ... fight corruption. With the FOI everyone becomes a graft buster." Philippine Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano, sponsor of long-pending freedom of information bill that abruptly expired in Philippine Congress due to suspicious, last-minute lack of quorum (June 4, 2010).

May 2010

"The statistics that you have cited are indeed troubling. I'm not exactly sure what the reason is. But I think it requires further examination . . . ." Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., responding to question from Sen. Charles Grassley based on Associated Press analysis of FY 2009 annual FOIA reports in testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee (Apr. 14, 2010).

April 2010

"It takes more than a year to turn the battleship." White House "Transparency Czar" and Special Counsel to the President Norman L. Eisen, at CGS's "Third Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration" (Mar. 16, 2010).

March 2010

"The Freedom of Information Act should not have been brought into this." Lord Lawson of Blaby, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and longstanding skeptic of global warming, speaking in the British Parliament about the integral role of the U.K.'s Freedom of Information Act in its current "climategate" scandal, according to the BBC (Mar. 1, 2010).

February 2010

"Transparency is hard." Robynn K. Sturm, Assistant Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Deputy Director, White House Open Government Initiative, speaking on behalf of the Obama Administration of its efforts toward government openness at CGS's "Transparency in the Obama Administration: A First-Year Assessment" program (Jan. 20, 2010).

January 2010

"We are excited about the visitor records policy not only because we are breaking new ground for this Administration but also because we are establishing a new standard for all future administrations. We know of no comparable initiative in the history of the White House." Norman L. Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, speaking with untold irony about the new White House policy according to which it voluntarily discloses most "visitor logs," but without regard for the FOIA's requirements as to any of them (Dec. 30, 2009).

December 2009

"[Y]ou will see a public report from us about the [state secrets] privilege [litigation] review process that elaborates [on] our thinking in more detail . . . [but] it's not done yet." Associate Deputy Attorney General Donald B. Verrilli, speaking about the long-anticipated results of the Department of Justice's review of all pending state secrets privilege cases (which began on Feb. 9, 2009), at CGS's "State of the State Secrets Privilege" conference on Nov. 18, 2009.

November 2009

"[You should] understand that what the President campaigned on -- toughening our ethics rules, making more transparent our transparency policy -- was something that he was passionate about and is proud of the progress that we've made in ensuring that." White House Press Secretary Robert L. Gibbs (Oct. 28, 2009).

October 2009

"Whether you visit the NARA Web site, I could care less . . . I could care less how many hits it gets. By making it machine readable and by exposing its core elements we will simplify mash-ups of every sort." Obama Administration Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, speaking of "Data.gov," an element of the Obama Administration's much-anticipated "Open Government Directive," at the "Excellence in Government" conference held in Washington, D.C., October 5, 2009.

September 2009

". . . the new President should keep in mind the virtues of transparency." Paul Horwitz, "Honor's Constitutional Moment: The Oath and Presidential Transitions," 103 Nw. Univ. L. Rev. 1067, 1078 (2009).

August 2009

"The court of appeals in this FOIA case has ordered the disclosure of photographs related to allegations of abuse and mistreatment of detainees in United States custody, notwithstanding the professional judgment of the Nation's top military officers -- confirmed by the President of the United States -- that disclosure could reasonably be expected to endanger the lives and safety of United States and Coalition forces and civilian personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Review by this Court is necessary to prevent that danger." Petition for a Writ of Certiorari filed by Solicitor General in United States Department of Defense v. ACLU, No. 09-160 (filed Aug. 7, 2009) (invoking Exemption 7(F) of the FOIA).

July 2009

"The Office of Administration, whose sole function is to advise and assist the President, and which has no substantial independent authority, is not subject to FOIA and related authorities." White House Office of Administration Web Site, as of July 2009.

June 2009

"White House spokesman Ben LaBolt says Obama 'has backed up his promise' with actions including the broadcast of White House meetings on the Web." Statement of White House when asked to identify any concrete example of increased FOIA disclosure under Holder FOIA Memorandum of March 19 in implementation of Obama FOIA Policy Memorandum of January 21. Newsweek, "Obama Closes Doors on Openness," June 29, 2009.

May 2009

"[We must consider] effective measures to address the problem of over classification [sic], including the possible restoration of the presumption against classification, which would preclude classification of information where there is significant doubt about the need for such classification, and the implementation of increased accountability for classification decisions." President Obama's Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies Regarding Classified Information (May 27, 2009).

April 2009

"Could go with CJ [Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist] extreme or JPS [Justice John Paul Stevens] extreme. Get all in or all out." Supreme Court Justice Antonin G. Scalia, quoted by Justice Harry A. Blackmun in his conference notes of December 9, 1988 (available at the Library of Congress's collection of Justice Blackmun's papers, Box 522, Folder 5), in the case of Department of Justice v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, as the explanation of Justice Scalia's equivocal conference vote to apply Exemption 7(C) either to all "rap sheet" criminal history information held by the FBI or to none at all, categorically, in order to "avoid[] endless balancing" -- as disclosed at CGS's Academic Conference: Privacy Protection After Twenty Years Under Reporters Committee (Apr. 28, 2009).

March 2009

"When the Congress unanimously passed the OPEN Government Act, Democrats and Republicans alike joined together in promising the American people a more open and transparent government. FOIA's defenders in Congress must work to ensure that this was not an empty promise. I intend to build on the FOIA reform work that Senator Cornyn and I began several years ago by proposing new legislation to further strengthen FOIA." Senator Patrick Leahy (D. Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and recipient of CGS's 2009 Robert Vaughn FOIA Legend Award, at CGS's Second Annual FOI Day Celebration (Mar. 16, 2009).

February 2009

"This is an incredible, transformative opportunity for all of us." OMB Watch Founder and Executive Director Gary D. Bass, speaking at CGS's FOIA Community Conference, "Information Policy in the New Administration," January 29, 2009.

January 2009

"For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city. . . . Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency." President Barack H. Obama, speaking of his new transparency and Freedom of Information Act directives at their signing ceremony (Jan. 21, 2009).

"And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to . . . do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government." President Barack H. Obama's Inaugural Address (Jan. 20, 2009).

"Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history . . ." The Briefing Room: The White House Blog, "Change Has Come to WhiteHouse.gov." (Jan. 20, 2009, 12:01 p.m.).

"Transparency is the best thing." Attorney General-Designate Eric H. Holder, Jr., before the Senate Judiciary Committee (Jan. 15, 2009).

December 2008

"Obama will require Cabinet officials to have periodic 21st Century Fireside Chats, restore meaning to the Freedom of Information Act, and conduct regulatory agency business in public." The Change We Need in America, www.barackobama.com (September 2008).

November 2008

"We may never learn the full extent of the vandalism conducted in the dark by Bush Inc., but in two months, this national disgrace will collapse into the history books. And now, suddenly, overnight, there are expectations." Journalist Billy Cox, Sarasota Herald Tribune, in "The Fierce Urgency of FOIA," November 5, 2008.

October 2008

"Transparency and secrecy are but two sides of the same coin. And speaking of which ..."
Anonymous (October 2008)

September 2008

"Corruption thrives in secrecy." Philippine journalist Juan L. Mercado, Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 15, 2008.

August 2008

"We're independent, uh, we're transparent . . . we're transparent [in that] we transparently provide to the Congress and others the basis of our findings and we do that to the extent possible." Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the subject of politicization of Justice Department career hiring during 2002-2006, July 30, 2008.

July 2008

"The Justice report also gives credit in some places where it isn't due. In citing specific agencies for 'improvements in the area of backlog reduction' it named Agriculture, Education, and Labor. Whatever gains they made, it wasn't in actually reducing their percentage backlog. Indeed, Education and Labor showed both a numerical and percentage gain." Retiring Coalition of Journalists for Open Government Coordinator Pete Weitzel, analyzing the Attorney General's Report to the President Pursuant to Executive Order 13,392 (May 30, 2008) in the in-depth assessment of actual agency executive order performance entitled, "An Opportunity Lost" (July 3, 2008).

June 2008

"The Bush administration lacked real accountability in large part because Bush himself did not embrace openness or government in the sunshine." Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.

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