VerDate 0ct 09 2002
There are, unfortunately, many issues in the Senate Judiciary Committee that are divisive. This is not one of them. So it is espe- cially gratifying to be able to work so closely with Senator Leahy on an issue that is so important and fundamental to our nation as openness in government. I want to express my appreciation not only to the Senator, but also his staff for all their hard work on these issues of mutual interest and national interest, and I would like to thank and commend Senator Leahy—recognize, I am a rel- ative newcomer to the United States Senate, but he has been work- ing on these issues for a long time, and I want to commend his dec- ades-long commitment to freedom of information.
Today is a particularly fitting day to examine these issues. This past Sunday, an extraordinary coalition of print, radio, television, and online media associations and outlets began the nation’s first ever Sunshine Week. And tomorrow is National Freedom of Infor- mation Day, celebrated every year at a national conference held at the Freedom Forum’s World Center in Arlington, Virginia, on James Madison’s birthday, quite appropriately.
Now, I know when we talk about freedom of information and the Freedom of Information Act and how that is implemented in the Federal Government that some people have ambiguous reactions and feelings to the invocation of FOIA. It reminds me of a story I saw recently where a person called the FBI and said, ‘‘I want to institute a FOIA request to see if you have a file on me. Do you have a file on me at the FBI?’’ to which the agent on the other end of the line responded, ‘‘We do now.’’
[Laughter.] Senator CORNYN. Well, freedom of information and openness in government are among the most fundamental founding principles of our government. The Declaration of Independence itself makes clear that our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness may only be secured where governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the gov- erned. And James Madison, the father of our Constitution, fa- mously wrote that consent of the governed means informed con- sent, that a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.
In my previous assignment as Attorney General of Texas, I was responsible for enforcing Texas’s open government laws, and I have always been proud of the fact that my State has one of the strong- est and most robust freedom of information laws in the country. I look forward to bringing some of that sunshine here to Washington.
But the truth is, many States have very robust freedom of infor- mation laws, and it reminds me of Louis Brandeis’s comment about the States being the laboratories of democracy, and I think we can continue to look toward those State experiences in looking at how we can improve the Freedom of Information Act here in Wash- ington.
After all, it is unfortunate that, as with too many of our ideals and aspirations, that we fall short of reaching our goals. Of course, this is a bipartisan problem and it requires a bipartisan solution. As Senator Leahy and I have both noted on occasion, openness in government is not a Republican or Democrat issue. Any party in power—it is just human nature—any party in power is always re-
09:04 Nov 08, 2005