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Freedom of Information in the 21st Century

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In his State of the Union address, President Obama promised a 21st century government, one that is "open and competent."

Alongside new initiatives, a piece of legislation that has been opening up government for decades is the Freedom of Information Act (1966). Now, the law has a new home at FOIA.gov. This site makes it even easier for people to request information from government agencies, find out how the law works, and explore information that has already been released.

The President has always made his commitment to open government clear. Soon after taking office, he issued a memoranda to government agencies:

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 should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

The launch of FOIA.gov is a key-step by government agencies in living up to this presumption of openness.