The order gives agencies 120 days to review their existing secrecy designations and to come up with standardized ones "in a timely manner." When there is doubt, Obama's order states, agencies are to err on the side of disclosure.
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is suing the administration under the Freedom of Information Act for documents that would explain the delay in issuing a long overdue, government-wide integrity policy.
FBI agents during the Bush administration "investigated members of the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace over their protest activities 'with little or no basis,' [a Justice Department Inspector General's] report said. Agents kept the case open for more than three years, even though no charges were filed, and put the activists on a terrorist watch list, it said."
Open-government advocacy groups like Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Union of Concerned Scientists say DOI's proposal seems designed to perpetuate some of the worst science abuses of the Bush administration.
A high-level seminar in Washington June 29 probed the apparent disconnect between scientific knowledge and public understanding, especially as it relates to climate change. The debate spilled over into the blogosphere.
The changes affect only new drilling areas and may include greater consideration of environmental impacts, more public review, fewer "categorical exclusions" from environmental review, and more.