National Security Archive Marks 46th FOIA Anniversary

5 July 2012

Marking the 46th anniversary of President Johnson’s signing the Freedom of Information Act, the National Security Archive July 4 posted a compilation of 46 news headlines from the past year made possible by active and creative use of the FOIA.

 This representative sample, drawn from hundreds of FOIA stories reported by newspapers, blogs, broadcasters, and researchers, describe FOIA requests that revealed the theft of Jack Daniels whiskey by airport security screeners, the keywords used by homeland security officials to monitor social networking sites, the soil contamination endangering Marines and their families at Camp Lejeune, pre-9/11 attempts to whack Osama bin Laden, and $1.2 trillion of secret Federal Reserve loans to banks, among dozens of other topics that the public has a right and a need to know.

“These freedom of information stories show the paradox of FOIA,” remarked Tom Blanton, director of the Archive, which has made tens of thousands of successful FOIA requests since its founding in 1985. “We requesters always complain about the constant delays, the bureaucratic obstacles, the processing fee harassment, and the excessive government secrecy; yet the FOIA actually produces front-page results every year that make a real difference to citizens and to better government.”

“Agencies are still dragging their heels on fulfilling President Obama’s transparency promises,” said Nate Jones, the Archive’s Freedom of Information Coordinator, citing the Archive’s government-wide audits of FOIA performance. “But persistence and focus and pressure pay off, as these headlines show; and the core principle of FOIA – that government information belongs to the people – is worth fighting for.”

The Archive’s detailed 122-page guide, “Effective FOIA Requesting for Everyone,” is available online at the Archive’s FOIA page, here (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/foia.html).

The Archive’s previous postings of documentation from the Johnson, Nixon and Ford presidential libraries show that President Johnson grudgingly signed the FOIA into law 46 years ago today, at the last possible minute, only after pressure from newspaper editors and his own press secretary Bill Moyers, who later said LBJ was “dragged kicking and screaming” into signing the bill. Moyers credited the persistence of longtime California congressman John Moss, lead author of the FOIA bill, for making the law happen.

For peridoic news and commntary on U.S. FOIA matters see Unredacted, the Archive blog.

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THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

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