March 16th, 2018 is National Freedom of Information Day! This day celebrates the Freedom of Information Act of 1966, and is also a celebration of President James Madison’s birthday, as he was known as the “Father of the Constitution” and strongly advocated for the government to be open with its people.
So what does the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) really do? It allows for the full, or in some cases, partial, disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. This Act provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information, so long as one of the few exemptions do not apply.
FOIA is one of the most important Acts put in place by the United States government. After the Cold War, there was increased government secrecy that continued to grow. After the Watergate Scandal, the Senate and the House introduced many new requirements, timeframes, sanctions for wrongly withheld information, and necessary language waiving fees for journalists and public interest groups.
The press is able to freely report what goes on in the United States government, and has been for quite some time, but after FOIA was enacted, any citizen can now acquire documents from U.S. federal agencies. American citizens have a constitutional right to know what goes on in their country, and what the government puts in place on their behalf. This can be invaluable for discovery purposes in cases and sometimes, just for doing your due diligence to know what is going on in your town or state.
Happy National Freedom of Information Day! If you want to know more about FOIA, and its exemptions, you can click here.