OPEN GOVERNMENT -- Clint Hendler, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, says the Bush administration was pathological about secrecy, and explains what needs to be undone after eight dark yearsand why it wont be easy.
Legally, some of the administrations greatest incursions against transparency were made with remarkable ease, only requiring executive orders or directional memos from senior White House staffa fact that should hearten open-government advocates who are optimistic about the potential of Barack Obamas administration to redress these grievances. To take but one example, though it is one especially dear to journalists, much of the damage done to the Freedom of Information Act under Bush could be undone with the stroke of a pen, and Obama, in the campaign and the transition, has suggested hell do just that. Other changes abetting excessive secrecy that resulted from court rulings or emerged from bureaucratic traditions are far more entrenched, and will not afford easy or quick fixes. Indeed, the struggle between openness and secrecy will continue in the coming years.
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