He said he was directing agencies that vet requests for information to err on the side of making information public — not to look for reasons to legally withhold it — an alteration to the traditional standard of evaluation. Just because a government agency has the legal power to keep information private does not mean that it should, Obama said.
This is an immediate shift in tone from the Bush administration, and a welcome one so long as bureaucrats obey orders. Transparency is a necessity for small-r republican government, and Cheney-esque appeals to the necessary confidentiality of "frank exchanges" should have no force. It's one thing, of course, for Obama to proclaim these new principles, but it'll be up to the people to enforce them by making bureaucrats provide the information to which citizens are entitled and making a stink if they don't. It's still up to us to figure things out for ourselves.