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A bad example, and more

In a stunning report issued this week, national open-government advocates show that half of the federal government's agencies aren't doing what they should do to make their operations as transparent as possible.

Back when he was first elected, the president promised a more open government. And in 2009, the attorney general issued guidelines to federal agencies telling them to adopt a "presumption of disclosure" about records, meaning that the default position of record-holders would be that what they had would be available to the public not the opposite, which is so often the case.

The guidelines were to be incorporated into the way agencies do business when it comes to handling freedom of information requests.

And they required agencies to post online copies of their most important documents.

Instead, the rules have been ignored. It's just easier to say No than to say Yes when it comes to information requests. And that's not just at the federal level. That's also the case in many courthouses and city halls.

Several groups, within and outside the federal government, have recommended best practices.

They must not be ignored, and someone at Attorney General Eric Holder's office needs to be put in charge of holding agency heads accountable when they ignore the law.

This is a corollary problem to the one posed by the NSA's snooping into our personal lives. A government that is allowed to operate in secret, both to gather information it should not be gathering and to hide information that belongs to the public, is one that Americans should push into change.

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