The fourth of July gives us more than one reason to celebrate— yesterday marked the 46th birthday of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). President Lyndon Johnson signed the historic law on July 4, 1966, and since then, FOIA has become a cornerstone of democracy in America.
In celebration of the anniversary of FOIA, the National Security Archive has posted a compilation of 46 news headlines made possible by FOIA this year. Drawn from hundreds of FOIA stories in newspapers, blogs, and broadcasts, the sampling includes the FOIA requests that revealed everything from the theft of a bottle of Jack Daniels by TSA agents to the $1.2 trillion of secret Federal Reserve loans to banks.
AALL works to support strong open government laws and has long advocated for improvements to FOIA. Recently, we advocated for the passage of the OPEN Government Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-175), which established the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) as the FOIA Ombudsman. We have also encouraged the development of the recently-previewed FOIA portal to create a uniform, centralized location to make and manage information requests.
There is no doubt that there is room to improve FOIA and, with your help, we will continue to speak out about the need for reform. As President Johnson stated 46 years ago, the historic law has built a foundation for open government on which to expand:
This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest…I signed this measure with a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people’s right to know is cherished and guarded.
So as you celebrate Independence Day this year, don’t forget to light a candle (or firecracker) for FOIA, too.