Freedom of Information Act (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: The U.S. government affirms the right of access to federal records other than classified or personal information.
Summary of Event
The participation of citizens in the democratic process is one of the most important factors in making a democracy work. This participation is effective, however, only if citizens have access to information about the way their government works. In the words of former president James Madison, “a popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both.” This connection between information and participation in the process of government is the basis for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution addresses the right of the people to assemble and to express themselves, but it does not guarantee specific rights to gather information concerning the government. Throughout the history of the United States, various federal, state, and local governments have attempted to enact laws restricting access to government information. Sometimes these agencies have acted in the public interest, such as attempting to protect the privacy of citizens or to guard sensitive defense information. Other times, however, restrictions have been used to cover up illegal activity or hide major bureaucratic mistakes.
Journalists were the driving force behind...
(The entire section is 1502 words.)
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Freedom of Information Act (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5U.S.C.A. § 552 et seq.) provides for the disclosure of information held by administrative agencies to the public, unless the documents requested fall into one of the specific exemptions set forth in the statute. FOIA was implemented to prevent federal agencies from abusing their discretionary powers by forcing them to make certain information about their work available to the public. The law was regarded as a great milestone because it guarantees the right of people to learn about the internal workings of their government. Almost all agencies of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH of the federal government have issued regulations implementing FOIA. These regulations inform the public where certain types of information are kept, how the information may be obtained on request, and what appeals are available if a member of the public is denied requested information.
A person requesting information under FOIA must generally send a letter to the head of the agency maintaining the documents that are sought, identifying the records as clearly as possible. If the request for information is denied, a letter of appeal may be filed, citing, if possible, court rulings explaining why the agency's decision to withhold the information is inappropriate. If the agency denies the appeal, the individual may seek JUDICIAL REVIEW...
(The entire section is 1209 words.)