Policy Letter

POGO joins sign on letter to White House calling for restoration of OA FOIA

The Honorable Gregory B. Craig

Counsel to the President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. Craig:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations concerned with government transparency and accountability, we write to request that the current administration act promptly to restore treatment of the White House's Office of Administration ("OA") as an agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA").From its inception in 1977 until August 2007, OA functioned consistently as an agency subject to the FOIA, adopting comprehensive FOIA regulations and processing hundreds of FOIA requests. In August 2007, in the midst of litigating a FOIA request brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ("CREW") for records related to OA's discovery that millions of e-mail messages were missing from White House servers, the Bush administration abruptly changed course and declared OA is not an agency and therefore need not comply with CREW's or any other information requests under the FOIA.

This radical departure from the policies and practices of all prior administrations rests on a flawed legal theory that fails to properly consider OA's role within the Executive Office of the President and its lack of proximity to the President. Mindful that one district court has upheld the Bush administration's exclusion of OA from the FOIA (a decision now on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit), we nevertheless urge the administration to reverse the Bush administration's policy and confirm OA's status as an agency within the meaning of the FOIA. Such a reversal best accords with the actual functioning of the OA and President Obama's January 21 memoranda concerning transparency and open government.

We, as organizations advocating for government transparency, were heartened by the President's commitment to creating "an unprecedented level of openness in Government." As the President noted, "*a+ democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency." Without question, transparency in the functioning of the Executive Office of the President and its components like OA play a critical role in meeting this commitment.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. Representatives of our organizations would be happy to meet with you or your staff to discuss this matter in more detail.


Anne L. Weismann

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

David L. Sobel

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Harry Hammitt

Access Reports

Mary Alice Baish

American Association of Law Libraries

Lynne Bradley

American Library Association

Judith Platt

Association of American Publishers

Prue Adler

Association of Research Libraries

Chip Pitts

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Daniel J. Metcalfe

Collaboration on Government Secrecy

Leslie Harris

Center for Democracy and Technology

Sheila Krumholz

Center for Responsive Politics

Sue Udry

Defending Dissent Foundation

John Verdi

Electronic Privacy Information Center

John Richard

Essential Information

Steven Aftergood

Federation of American Scientists

Conrad Martin

Fund for Constitutional Government

Mark Cohen

Government Accountability Project

J.H. Snider


Michael Ostrolenk

Liberty Coalition

Ellen Smith

Mine Safety and Health News

Joan Bertin

National Coalition Against Censorship

Lee White

National Coalition for History

Charles N. Davis

National Freedom of Information Coalition

Meredith Fuchs

National Security Archive

Sean Moulton

OMB Watch

Patrice McDermott


Susan Maret

Progressive Librarians Guild

Danielle Brian

Project On Government Oversight

Angela Canterbury

Public Citizen

Lucy A. Dalglish

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Frank Boles

Society of American Archivists

Dave Aeikens

Society of Professional Journalists

Douglas Newcomb

Special Libraries Association

Ellen Miller

Sunlight Foundation

Linda Petersen

Utah Foundation for Open Government

Toby Nixon

Washington Coalition for Open Government

Bill Will, General Manager

Washington Newspaper Publishers Association