FOIA Is Democracy's X-Ray

On Thursday, I joined representatives from the government and other advocacy groups at a congressional hearing to discuss the state of the Freedom of Information Act.  Simply put, FOIA is democracy’s X-ray.

I appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives for its first hearing in the 110th Congress to discuss the importance of FOIA.

Since its enactment in 1966, FOIA has been used by the ACLU, other organizations, and private citizens to shed light on the government’s actions and abuses.  Recent ACLU FOIAs have revealed Pentagon and FBI spying programs targeting peaceful protest groups in the United States.  Such programs demonstrate the misuse of precious government resources: every hour spent spying on a Quaker peace group is an hour not spent investigating true terrorist threats.

Another ACLU FOIA exposed evidence of officially sanctioned torture in U.S. detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  While thousands of pages of documents have been released, the government continues to withhold countless documents that would shed further light on the decisions – and the decision makers -- that led to the abuse.

The list goes on and on.  However, the effectiveness of FOIA has been harmed by the Bush administration’s disdain for open government.  In October 2001, in a reversal from Attorney General Janet Reno’s practice that there should be a “presumption of disclosure,

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