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Transition Office Announces Policy of Document Transparency

By Michael D. Shear
Call it the anti-Dick Cheney policy.

In a memo to the staff, the Barack Obama transition team is pledging to put all documents from meetings they hold with outside groups on their website for all to see.

"Any documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be posted on our website for people to review and comment on," the memo, from transition chief John Podesta states.

"Prior to an official meeting with an outside organization or organizations, Obama-Biden Transition Project staff members will inform attendees that any documents provided will be posted on our 'Seat at the Table' website found at www.change.gov," Podesta wrote. "Suggested language for email invitations is: 'By presenting or submitting any document at a meeting with the Obama-Biden Transition Project, you agree to allow the document to be made public.'"

The policy is intended to draw a sharp contrast to the efforts by the Bush Administration, and especially the vice president, to keep meetings, and especially notes and other documents, secret.

Cheney fought a pitched battle over whether he had to provide information about the participants and the discussions of an energy task force that he chaired. Cheney prevailed in that battle, keeping the details of the meetings largely secret.

But there appear to be important caveats to the new Obama policy.

In a footnote, Podesta makes clear that the transparency policy does not apply to "non-public or classified information acquired from the Agency Review Process and internal memorandum." What, exactly, constitutes non-public information is not specified.

In another footnote, he writes that "An 'official meeting' is defined as a meeting with outside organizations or representatives of those organizations to which three or more outside participants attend."

That would allow the transition to apply different rules to smaller group meetings.

He also notes that: "In the interest of protecting the personal privacy of individuals, this policy does not apply to personnel matters and hiring recommendations."

It is also unclear whether this policy will transcend the changeover into the Obama administration, though transition officials have said in the past that ethics rules established for the transition would mirror those put in place later.

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 5, 2008; 7:14 PM ET
Categories:  Transition  
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Comments

Fred23:

Makes you wonder, doesn't it, why Obama hasn't just produced the document rather than spending millions on lawyers?

Posted by: JakeD | December 8, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

GREAT! THE FIRST DOCUMENT HE SHOULD BEGIN THE PROCESS WITH IS HIS BIRTH CERTIFICATE! THE ORIGINAL!

I like and support him, but my friends are giving me hell and he should end all speculation and just publish the original he talked about in his book as being his Prized Possession and tell his CRITICS, take that, there you go!

Posted by: Fred23 | December 6, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

All Obama All Of The Time:

New: Full and Comprehensive Coverage of the Obama Administration Updated As News Breaks Politics, Opinion, Appointments, Inaugural, Foreign/Domestic, Media, Humor, Entertainment, More...

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Posted by: caraprado1 | December 6, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

How about the very first "transparent" document production be Obama's original LONG FORM birth certificate?

Posted by: JakeD | December 5, 2008 8:15 PM | Report abuse

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