President Issues FOIA Executive Order

On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) memoranduminstructing the federal government to operate under the principles of openness and transparency. 

The memo instructs all agencies to act promptly and openly when responding to requests for information under FOIA. Furthermore, the memo states that agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, meaning that agencies should take affirmative steps to make the information public in a timely manner and not wait for specific requests from the public. 

In the past, FOIA requests have been perceived by companies as virtually useless because it took so long for the government to process and the information received was so redacted that it was meaningless.  Therefore, a FOIA request may now provide a useful tool for importers and exporters in the collection of information.  CBP may now be willing to provide relevant background information regarding rulings and penalties. 

In a separate memo regarding government transparency, President Obama instructed the heads of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration to issue an Open Government Directive implementing the principles of government's transparency, public participation, and collaboration, within 120 days.