- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2014

A coalition of 50 watchdog and civil liberties groups sent a letter Thursday to President Obama urging him to follow through on his promise to head the most transparent administration ever by reforming disclosure policies at federal agencies.

The groups laid out six reforms that the Obama administration should mandate in order to streamline the process for responding and disclosing documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In the letter, the watchdog groups called on Mr. Obama to codify a presumed disclosure clause in FOIA regulations, requiring government agencies to err towards disclosing requested information.

The coalition wrote that records created more than 25 year ago should not be subject to withholding, arguing that the FOIA should not be used to “bar the public’s access to our nation’s history where the passage of time has significantly eroded, if not eliminated altogether, any valid governmental interest served by secrecy.”

In addition, the groups stressed that role of the Office of Government Information Services should be expanded to oversee more of the FOIA process.

“Only statutory reform and your public commitment to that reform will ensure the commitments you have made last beyond your presidency,” the coalition wrote.

Among the groups was Washington watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which announced plans Wednesday to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to turn over documents regarding the oil industry’s influence over the new renewable fuel standards. CREW filed a FOIA request for the documents over a year ago.

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