A recent report [OpenTheGovernment.org] released with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) used data collected annually by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in agencies’ reports on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing. This data is supposed to allow the public to assess the effect of the Obama Administration's FOIA policy on agency practice. Unfortunately, though, [they] were only able to come up with a partial answer to the question of whether or not agencies are following the Administration's policy.
On his first day in office President Obama committed his Administration to creating an "unprecedented level of openness in Government." As part of his effort to open government, President Obama directed agencies that FOIA "should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails." Attorney General Holder echoed these words in his March 2009 memo. The Obama Administration policy is in stark contrast to [the October, 2001] policy under the Bush Administration (PDF), which urged agencies to withhold information in the face of doubt.
Whether or not agencies are following the Administration's policy is not just a matter of interest to a couple of good government organizations: Part of Congress' job is to oversee how agencies are fulfilling their duties under laws like FOIA; journalists, researchers, advocates and any member of the public who is simply interested in knowing what the government knows about something all have an interest in how well agencies respond to their requests for information.