Freedom of Information Act After 50 Years

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Michael R. Lemov, author of “Car Safety Wars” and of “People’s Warrior”, has noted the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act in a piece carried by The Detroit News.

Lemov wrote:“It is now 50 years since Congressman John Moss’ greatest triumph, the Freedom of Information Act. Since then, the law has been improved here and adopted, in one form or another, in over 100 countries….

As I interviewed Moss for a book about his life, I asked whether the Freedom of Information Act had been all he hoped for. “If you ask me if we are better off now than before we passed it,” he said, “I would definitely say yes. If you ask me are we where we should be on open government, I would say, not by a long shot. … The battle never ends.”

Lemov is right to remind us all of Rep. Moss’ “The battle never ends.”
Paul Fletcher, the recent President of the Society of Professional Journalists, noted the 50th anniversary in Quill as follows:

“PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICERS. In December, I led a group to the White House, where we spoke with President Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, on behalf of 53 journalism organizations.

The topic: The trend by public information officers at federal agencies to prevent journalists from doing their jobs and getting information to the American people. The problem has gotten worse, not better, under the “most transparent administration in history,” which is what the president called for the day after his inauguration in 2009.

PIOs have become a stifling pinchpoint for information, or in the case where interviews actually are allowed, minders who seek to make sure that the company line is preserved.

Earnest was cordial and the conversation was candid. But we haven’t seen any follow-up as the Obama administration plays out the clock.

I choose to be an optimist on a daily basis, but this problem is only going to get worse. And it doesn’t matter which candidate wins the presidential election in November.

FIX FOIA by 50. Finally, this was a big one. SPJ is a member of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a combine of nine journalist and open-government groups. SGI worked tirelessly on behalf of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, a measure that passed both houses of Congress unanimously. “Fix FOIA by 50” was the mantra, seeking passage of the bill before the 50th anniversary of the act’s initial passage.

The bill brings FOIA into the 21st century; among other reforms, it allows for electronic requests and requires electronic documents to be created. There will be a single online portal to submit FOIA requests to agencies. It establishes, by statute, a presumption of openness in our government.

President Obama signed the bill on June 30, just a few days before July 4, the day President Lyndon Johnson signed the first FOIA in 1966. We fixed FOIA by 50, and we gave America a little something extra to celebrate on Independence Day this year.”  See

Lou Lombardo


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