THE WHITE HOUSE
October 4, 1993
MEMORANDUM FOR HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: The Freedom of Information Act
I am writing to call your attention to a subject that is
of great importance to the American public and to all Federal
departments and agencies the administration of the Freedom of
Information Act, as amended (the "Act"). The Act is
a vital part of the participatory system of government. I am committed
to enhancing its effectiveness in my Administration.
For more than a quarter century now, the Freedom of Information
Act has played a unique role in strengthening our democratic form
of government. The statute was enacted based upon the fundamental
principle that an informed citizenry is essential to the democratic
process and that the more the American people know about their
government the better they will be governed. Openness in government
is essential to accountability and the Act has become an integral
part of that process.
The Freedom of Information Act, moreover, has been one of
the primary means by which members of the public inform themselves
about their government. As Vice President Gore made clear in the
National Performance Review, the American people are the Federal
Government's customers. Federal departments and agencies should
handle requests for information in a customer-friendly manner.
The use of the Act by ordinary citizens is not complicated, nor
should it be. The existence of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles
has no place in its implementation.
I therefore call upon all Federal departments and agencies
to renew their commitment to the Freedom of Information Act, to
its underlying principles of government openness, and to its sound
administration. This is an appropriate time for all agencies to
take a fresh look at their administration of the Act, to reduce
backlogs of Freedom of Information Act requests, and to conform
agency practice to the new litigation guidance issued by the Attorney
General, which is attached.
Further, I remind agencies that our commitment to openness
requires more than merely responding to requests from the public.
Each agency has a responsibility to distribute information on
its own initiative, and to enhance public access through the use
of electronic information systems. Taking these steps will ensure
compliance with both the letter and spirit of the Act.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
Updated page November 9, 1999