50 years later, Freedom of Information Act still chipping away at government's secretive culture
By David L. Hudson, ABA Journal, July 1, 2016 ed.
On Independence Day 50 years ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson reluctantly signed into law the Freedom of Information Act. President Johnson thought it was terrible legislation and considered a veto after it was passed by Congress. He signed the bill into law on his Texas ranch instead of at a celebratory event at the White House.
Johnson’s comments at the low-key signing ceremony at the ranch illustrated his mixed feelings about the new law. “I signed this measure with a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society,” he said. “I have always believed that freedom of information is so vital that only the national security, not the desire of public officials or private citizens, should determine when it must be restricted. At the same time, the welfare of the nation or the rights of individuals may require that some documents not be made available. As long as threats to peace exist, for example, there must be military secrets.”
Johnson’s comments still describe the ongoing tension between the commitment to disclosure of government information to members of the press and public measured against the governmental inclination to withhold information, most often on grounds of national security.
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