WASHINGTON - Faced with public criticism about the secretiveness of his administration and pressure from Capitol Hill to abide by Freedom of Information Act requirements, President Bush in December issued an executive order aimed at speeding up the processing of public record requests.
Bush's order requires executive branch agencies to set concrete timetables for reducing the backlog of requests, create service centers allowing citizens to track the status of their requests and create public liaisons who can try to resolve disputes to keep them out of court.
Bush's order stated: "The effective functioning of our constitutional democracy depends upon the participation in public life of a citizenry that is well informed. For nearly four decades, the Freedom of Information Act has provided an important means through which the public can obtain information regarding the activities of Federal agencies."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a former Texas Attorney General, applauded Bush's order as "an important step toward more sunshine in government."
Cornyn has been pushing two pieces of legislation aimed at closing loopholes in the FOIA and monitoring delays in processing requests.
In remarks on the Senate floor last year about his bill, Cornyn said, "There is a broad consensus across the aisle, the political spectrum, that we currently overclassify government documents, and that many documents and much information is placed beyond the public view without any real justification.