Attorney General Eric Holder issued comprehensive new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidelines today that direct all executive branch departments and agencies to apply a presumption of openness when administering the FOIA. The new guidelines, announced in a memo to heads of executive departments and agencies, build on the principles announced by President Obama on his first full day in office when he issued a presidential memorandum on the FOIA that called on agencies to "usher in a new era of open government." At that time, President Obama also instructed Attorney General Holder to issue new FOIA guidelines that reaffirm the government’s commitment to accountability and transparency. The memo rescinds the guidelines issued by the previous administration.
"By restoring the presumption of disclosure that is at the heart of the Freedom of Information Act, we are making a critical change that will restore the public’s ability to access information in a timely manner," said Attorney General Holder. "The American people have the right to information about their government’s activities, and these new guidelines will ensure they are able to obtain that information under principles of openness and transparency."
The new FOIA guidelines address both application of the presumption of disclosure and the effective administration of the FOIA across the government. As to the presumption of disclosure, the Attorney General directs agencies not to withhold records simply because they can technically do so. In his memo, the Attorney General encourages agencies to make discretionary disclosures of records and to release records in part whenever they cannot be released in full.
Download PDF of guidelines here.