Bush signs government transparency bill
Updated: 2008-01-01 09:22
President George W. Bush signs into law H.R. 2764 during a flight aboard Air Force One on December 26, 2007. [Agencies]
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 hotline 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.