Celebrating FOIA's 50th Birthday

Written by Hannah Schwartz, Common Cause intern on June 29, 2016

FOIA—the federal Freedom of Information Act—will turn 50 on the 4th of July, its birthday commemorated with President Obama’s signing of a rare, bipartisan bill to update and strengthen it.

For half a century, this act has ensured that citizens have the right to access information from the federal government. It has strengthened our democracy and our ability to hold power accountable.

This anniversary is a time to celebrate FOIA and the activists who have ensured its longevity. It’s a time to reflect on successes since the act’s passage, including the implementation of state and local FOIA laws.

The anniversary is also a time to reflect on and resolve FOIA’s shortcomings, which include resistance in too many agencies to information requests, slow processing of requests, and limited disclosure of request denials. While strengthening FOIA to make public information more accessible, we need open data laws that will make it more available, posted where everyone can see it without having to ask and having to wait while agencies process requests.

FOIA reflects our conviction as Americans that democracy works best when citizens are informed. Maintaining and strengthening it should be a priority for every American.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Ethics

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