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.
Web Politics Editor
December 5, 2008; 7:14 PM ET
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