Obama and Openness: Conference Thursday

by on January 27, 2009 · 6 comments

Only last week, President Barack Obama issued a new government-wide policy on FOIA requests mandating a “presumption in favor of disclosure” and directed his OMB to get to work fast on an “Open Government Directive,” with specific mandates for agencies, that achieves “an unprecedented level of openness in Government.” That task is a tall order for the 120-day deadline Obama set.

So no doubt this week’s day-long conference presented by the Collaboration on Government Secrecy and American University’s Washington School of Law will attract some attention from those within the Administration charged with getting the new policy out the door. Indeed, the conference’s aim seems particularly pragmatic–organizers intend to end the day with “an on?site consensus prioritization of policy changes, to be formally delivered to the Obama Administration.”

For a clue of what to expect in that “prioritization,” look to the agenda. Participants include representatives from OMB Watch, the National Security Archive, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Constitution Project, and the ACLU. (It is a bit disappointing that no one from Mercatus–e.g., co-blogger and transparency guru Jerry Brito–or Cato or the like is on the agenda, as there’s a lot of consensus on these issues across partisan and ideological lines.) Also participating are many journalist-types and several current and former officials (though only one that I can tell with much experience in a transparency-averse agency).

So expect a tight focus on national-security matters and executive branch records–i.e., the bugaboos of the Bush era–with perhaps less attention paid to openness in the regulatory policymaking process. Then again, Obama’s choice of Cass Sunstein as regulatory czar may drive the discussion in that direction, given his strong work on the value of openness and dissent.

For those in town interested in attending the event, registration still appears to be open.

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