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Make America Great Again #3: Explain FOIA

Lawrence Bush
January 29, 2017
by Lawrence Bush THE FREEDOM of Information Act (FOIA) has been a bone of contention between liberal advocates of open government and conservative advocates of “national security” since it was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1968. Anyone who thinks that FOIA is sacrosanct and beyond outright repeal by our Republican-controlled federal government is fooling himself/herself -- particularly with Trump and his minions declaring an all-out war on the mainstream media. It’s time, therefore, for media outlets and free-speech and democracy advocates to launch a massive public relations campaign that explains the importance, the history, and the vital role of the Freedom of Information Act in our democracy. To appeal and educate beyond liberal ranks, the campaign should underscore that FOIA was established to help stop the leaking of classified information by establishing an alternative; that it applies only to the executive branch of government, where the most government power is consolidated; that it already limits disclosure of information to foreign governments and organizations; that businesses regularly file FOIA claims in order to limit government regulation. Among the important news stories made possible by the FOIA, according to the National Security Archives: • “FBI Keeps Watch on Activists; Antiwar, other groups are monitored to curb violence, not because of ideology, agency says,” Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2006, by Nicholas Riccardi • “Vietnam War Intelligence ‘Deliberately Skewed,’ Secret Study Says,” The New York Times, December 2, 2005, December 2, 2005, by Scott Shane • “Many who got Sept. 11 loans didn’t need them; some loan recipients had no idea their funds came from terror-relief program,” Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia), September 9, 2005 • “Inefficient Spending Plagues Medicare; Quality Often Loses Out as 40-Year-Old Program Struggles to Monitor Hospitals, Oversee Payments,” The Washington Post, July 24, 2005, by Gilbert M. Gaul

“Jail’s Broken Locks are Widespread; Reports Detail Incidents of City Inmates Regularly Breaking Out of Their Cells,” Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia), June 7, 2005, by Jim Nolan, David Ress and Jeremy Redmon

• “Broader definition of terror; The U.S. Justice Department’s silence regarding specific cases has sparked a controversy,” Des Moines Register (Iowa), May 16, 2005, by Dalmer Bert

• “Washington owed billions of dollars: Fraction of fines actually get paid; Penalties get axed, ignored, forgotten,” Kansas City Star, March 19, 2006, by Martha Mendoza and Christopher Sullivan, the Associated Press

• “White House paid commentator to promote law; Pundit got $240,000 to pitch education reform,” USA Today, January 7, 2005, by Greg Toppo

Something for everyone! DEFEND THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT -- before it gets attacked!

Lawrence Bush edits Jewish Currents.

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.