VerDate 0ct 09 2002
luctant to share information out of an understandable, albeit ulti- mately unpersuasive, fear of arming one’s critics and enemies. Whatever our differences may be today on various policy controver- sies, we should all agree that these policy differences deserve as full and complete a debate before the American people as possible.
I also think it is appropriate to note it was a President from Texas, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who signed the Freedom of Infor- mation Act into law on July 4, 1966. Again, addressing the sort of ambiguous connotation of, invocation of the Freedom of Information Act, I read with interest the comments of Bill Moyers, LBJ’s press secretary, who said, quote, ‘‘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.’’
Well, it has been nearly a decade since Congress has approved major reforms to that Freedom of Information Act signed in 1966, which LBJ ultimately did sign. Moreover, the Senate Judiciary Committee has not held a hearing to examine this law since 1992, so it is long overdue. I hope that today’s hearing will prove to be an important first step toward strengthening those open govern- ment laws and toward reinforcing our national commitment to free- dom of information.
Today’s hearing will provide a forum for discussing the Faster Freedom of Information Act, which Senator Leahy and I have intro- duced just last week—perfect timing—which will establish an advi- sory commission of experts and government officials to study what changes in Federal law and Federal policy are needed to ensure more effective and timely compliance with the Freedom of Informa- tion Act.
Today’s hearing also provides the opportunity to examine the OPEN Government Act, which I alluded to a moment ago. This leg- islation contains important Congressional findings to reiterate and reinforce our belief that the Freedom of Information Act establishes a presumption of openness and that our government is based not on the need to know, but upon the fundamental right to know.
In addition, the Act contains over a dozen substantive provisions designed to achieve four important objectives: First, to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and to close loopholes; second, to help FOIA requestors obtain timely responses to their requests; third, to ensure that agencies have strong incentives to comply in a timely fashion; and fourth, to provide FOIA officials with all of the tools that they need to ensure that our government remains open and accessible.
Specifically, the legislation would make clear that the Freedom of Information Act applies even when agency recordkeeping is outsourced. It would require an open government impact statement to ensure that any new FOIA exception adopted by Congress be ex- plicit. It provides annual reporting on the usage of the new disclo- sure exemption for critical infrastructure information and strength- ens and expands access to FOIA fee waivers for all media. It en- sures accurate reporting of FOIA agency performance by distin- guishing between first-person requests for personal information and other more burdensome types of requests.
09:04 Nov 08, 2005