Freedom of Information and the Right to Know: The Origins and Applications of the Freedom of Information Act

By Herbert N. Foerstel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Freedom of Information in the
New Millennium

IMPEDIMENTS TO THE RIGHT TO KNOW

In 1986, on the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), former Representative John Moss (D-Calif.), regarded by many as the father of the act stated, "I am repeatedly asked today, as I have been since 1966, if the law has worked as I would like it to work. The answer must be: Of course not! . . . At the time the legislation was debated on the House floor, I characterized it as a timid first step. The fact is, much must be done on a continuing basis if we are to truly ensure that information is available to the people of this nation and that no withholding will be tolerated except that small part that truly touches upon the real security of this nation. . . . Were I in Congress today, I would commence hearings to follow up every instance alleged to have occurred in which the Act has caused any damage to our national security. I would provide a forum for each person in a responsible position, who has made such allegations, to support them. Under oath . . . I doubt that they could show such harm."1

As we enter the twenty-first century, the status of the people's right to know and the legislative embodiment of that right, the Freedom of Information Act, has changed little since Moss 's comments made on its twentieth anniversary. There have been promising government initiatives, but fundamental problems remain.

In a 1998 interview, Ralph Nader described the most daunting obstacle facing the Freedom of Information Act. "The implementation of the FOIA

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Freedom of Information and the Right to Know: The Origins and Applications of the Freedom of Information Act
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Chapter 1 - The Right to Know 1
  • Chapter 2 - A Legislative Remedy 33
  • Chapter 3 - Government Compliance with the FOIA 71
  • Chapter 4 - The Effective Use of the FOIA 123
  • Chapter 5 - Freedom of Information in the New Millennium 163
  • Appendix 1 - Text of the FOIA 193
  • Appendix 2 - Selected FOIA Case List 205
  • Selected Bibliography 211
  • Index 213
  • About the Author *
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