Government watchdogs praise Obama moves on disclosure

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WASHINGTON — Government watchdogs are cheering President Barack Obama's move to change how open records laws are interpreted as a sign of greater disclosure of agency information than during the Bush administration.

Obama's instruction to federal agencies Wednesday to be more responsive to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act is not the first time a president has pushed for wider release of information. The Carter and Clinton administrations had similar policies that called for agencies to err on the side of making materials public, rather than looking for reasons to legally withhold them.

But advocates say they believe Obama's administration will go further, using Web sites and other electronic media to give the public unprecedented access.

"The fact that Mr. Obama took these actions on his very first day in office signals a new era in government accountability," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "He is turning the page and moving away from the secrecy of the last administration."

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