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Bush signs open government bill

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080101/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_freedom_of_information;_ylt=AnCPywLpINsBNMLkCgMFfAKs0NUE Bush signs open government bill By BEN FELLER,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080101/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_freedom_of_information;_ylt=AnCPywLpINsBNMLkCgMFfAKs0NUE

      Bush signs open government bill

      By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer 7 minutes ago

      CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush on Monday signed a
      bill aimed at giving the public and the media greater
      access to information about what the government is
      doing.

      The new law toughens the Freedom of Information Act,
      the first such makeover to the signature public-access
      law in a decade. It amounts to a congressional
      pushback against the Bush administration's movement to
      greater secrecy since the terrorist attacks of 2001.

      Bush signed the bill without comment in one of his
      final decisions of the year.

      The legislation creates a system for the media and
      public to track the status of their FOIA requests. It
      establishes a hot line service for all federal
      agencies to deal with problems and an ombudsman to
      provide an alternative to litigation in disclosure
      disputes.

      The law also restores a presumption of a standard that
      orders government agencies to release information on
      request unless there is a finding that disclosure
      could do harm.

      Agencies would be required to meet a 20-day deadline
      for responding to FOIA requests. Nonproprietary
      information held by government contractors also would
      be subject to the law.

      The legislation is aimed at reversing an order by
      former Attorney General John Ashcroft after the 9/11
      attacks in which he instructed agencies to lean
      against releasing information when there was
      uncertainty about how doing so would affect national
      security.

      Dozens of media outlets, including The Associated
      Press, supported the legislation.

      Last year, the government received 21.4 million
      requests for information under the 40-year-old law,
      according to statistics provided by the Justice
      Department. The government processed nearly the same
      number of requests, which was almost 1.5 million more
      than processed during the previous fiscal year,
      according to the department.
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