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Obama Transparency Standards

Senators Demand Fewer Secrets, New Transparency Standards

AP | LAURIE KELLMAN | Posted 05.25.2011 | Politics

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's new standards for government openness have not trickled down to some agencies, where officials have used special statutes slipped into bills to skirt the Freedom of Information Act, open government advocates said Wednesday.

Efforts to strengthen the 42-year-old law "have been hampered by the increasing use of legislative exemptions that are often sneaked into legislation without debate or public scrutiny," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said.

News organizations and media groups said new legislation was needed to limit the information agencies may keep secret and for how long.

"The secrecy reflex at some agencies remains firmly in place," said Tom Curley, president and chief executive of The Associated Press. And FOIA still contains relatively weak penalties for those that don't meet their disclosure obligations, he said.

"We appreciate the change in policy direction, but the change hasn't yet reached the street," said Curley, testifying on behalf of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of media groups.