Pres. Clinton Memo: The Freedom of Information Act

THE WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON

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

Go to: FOIA Home Page//Justice Department Home Page


Updated page November 9, 1999

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