Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which was signed into law July 4, 1966, by President Lyndon B. Johnson, went into effect the following year.

According to journalist Bill Moyers, who served as a press secretary to the Johnson administration, Johnson “signed it with language that was almost lyrical; signed it, he said, ‘With a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people’s right to know is cherished and guarded.’ Well, yes, but what few people knew at the time is that LBJ had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of the Freedom of Information Act; hated the thought of journalists rummaging in government closets; hated them challenging the official view of reality. He dug in his heels and even threatened to pocket veto the bill after it reached the White House. Only the courage and political skill of a Congressman named John Moss got the bill passed at all, and that was after a twelve-year battle against his elders in Congress who blinked every time the sun shined in the dark corridors of power. They managed to cripple the bill Moss had drafted. And even then, only some last-minute calls to LBJ from a handful of newspaper editors overcame the President’s reluctance; he signed ‘the fucking thing,’ as he called it, and then went out to claim credit for it.”[1][2]

“By the end of 1975,” stated the FOIA website of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “amendments to the Freedom of Information Act had become effective and the Privacy Act of 1974 also became effective. The passage of these laws provided for broad access to FBI records which previously had been severely limited. … In the past twenty plus years, the FBI has handled over 300,000 requests and over six million pages of FBI documents have been released to the public in paper format. Currently, an automated document processing system is under development that will replace the ‘marker pen’ method and allow for documents to be released in electronic format.”

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