Forty years ago, public gained its right to know
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Kansas City Star
Posted: November 11th, 2006
An important anniversary will likely go unnoticed today, amidst all the hoopla surrounding the nation's 230th birthday. It's also the 40th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act. Little known, poorly understood and, it seems, constantly embattled, the act stands as one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by the U.S. Congress. So important, in fact, that the Congress quickly exempted itself from its provisions. It required for the first time that broad categories of federal records be made available to the public. Today, the act remains the public's only legislative window on how government really works -- or doesn't. We can thank the act for the fact that we know that servicemen were once used as human nuclear guinea pigs; that 'detainees' in the war on terror were abused, and that the Central Intelligence Agency conducted mind-control experiments on Americans in the 1950s. But there is a mighty force working against open government. And that is the government itself. According to a report released last week, the federal government is falling further and further behind in filling requests under the law; is more often refusing to release documents, and is spending more money doing it. But perhaps the most distressing finding in the report, from the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, is that the government has increased its use of broad discretionary exemptions to withhold documents from the public and the press.