Open Government Plan


Start: 2010-04-07, Publication: 2010-05-01


This Plan continues the work of the Attorney General’s March 19, 2009 Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies regarding the FOIA, sometimes referred to as “the Attorney General’s Guidelines.” That memorandum highlighted, among other things, two mandates: First, the memorandum emphasized that FOIA is everyone’s responsibility. If we are to open up government, officials and employees at every level must dedicate themselves to taking a second look at old practices and considering, for example, whether information that has long been withheld could be released to the public without harm. Second, the memorandum exhorted agencies not just to employ a presumption of disclosure when they receive requests from the public, but also to work actively to identify ways in which their agency can provide information without being asked. As discussed below, the early results of the Attorney General’s memorandum have shown significant improvement in the performance of many agencies’ efforts to implement the FOIA. In that sense, the Department began its own Open Government Initiative more than a year ago. That work continues with this Plan, which has been developed as part of the Administration‐wide Open Government Initiative. The Department’s Plan has been formulated with the considerable input of interested Department employees, stakeholders and members of the public who were invited to share their ideas on how to make the Department more open and accountable. Their ideas were sent to both a new e‐mail account,, and to a temporary Web site,, at which contributors were invited not only to offer ideas, but to evaluate and vote on the submissions of others. The Department of Justice Open Government Plan requires Department officials and employees at all levels to look for new opportunities to be more transparent, collaborative and participatory in conducting the Department’s business.

The Department of Justice is one of the oldest Cabinet departments in the U.S. government. It has a rich and honorable history, and its employees and senior officials are always aware that the Department must rise above partisan concerns to see that justice is truly done. A large part of that tradition has included the mandate to hold information close – whether it was grand jury‐protected, law enforcement‐sensitive or national security‐classified. But the Department must also ensure that the public has sufficient information to comprehend the actions taken by the Department to fulfill its missions. Department of Justice officials and employees must continue to look anew at its practices. Where the Department can better fulfill its mission through a new approach, we must embrace it. And where we can better inform the public while we fulfill those missions, we should do so.


Name:Owen Ambur


Name:U.S. Department of Justice


The Department of Justice has a special responsibility in open government. While the FOIA imposes openness obligations on all Executive Branch agencies, it imposes unique responsibilities on the Department. Federal law requires the Department to provide guidance to other agencies on FOIA‐related issues and requires the Department to collect information on FOIA compliance from across the government. The Department takes its roles under the FOIA seriously. The principles of transparency, participation and collaboration that underlie the Open Government Initiative are also critical to fulfilling other core missions of the Department. The Department has three main missions: * Prevent terrorism and promote the nation’s security; * Prevent crime, enforce federal laws and represent the rights and interests of the American people; and * Ensure the fair and efficient administration of justice. The Department’s national security, law enforcement and legal counseling functions often require it to maintain confidentiality over critical information. However, in many other aspects of the Department’s work, it can and must be more transparent. Where the Open Government principles of transparency, participation and collaboration can enable the Department to better fulfill its missions, the Department must seize those opportunities. Where the Department can better inform the public without compromising its missions, it should.