From the 1960s and well into the 1990s, growing public concern about the responsiveness of national, state, and local governments provided a favorable environment for creating additional instruments to help hold bureaucracies accountable. Laws were enacted; elected executives initiated action; and organizations were established to shed more light on the gap between governments' promises and performance.
It is the nature of bureaucracies, and particularly government bureaucracies, to make records, to collect records, and to keep them secret. Access to these records often provides different bases for evaluating the performance of agencies and new opportunities for holding their administrators accountable.
On July 4, 1966, President Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)1 with a ringing declaration about the importance of openness in government for our freedom and independence. The Justice Department was given responsibility for administering the law. The department's guidelines to agencies made clear that disclosure of government documents was to be the general rule, not the exception. The law identified specific exemptions from disclosure that relate primarily to personal data on individuals, business and trade secrets, classified information affecting the national security and foreign policy, and certain inter- and intra-agency memoranda.
In announcing the Justice Department's guidelines, the attorney general