For 4th of July, Celebrate America’s Transparency

This weekend, we are mindful of the historical significance of the Fourth of July as well as some more recent traditions and celebrations, such as the 44th anniversary of FOIA’s establishment on July 4, 1966. With that in mind, we have combed our “FOIA Files” entries to remind our readers and ourselves of the democratic values and ideas we hold dear, and how FOIA helps us uphold them.

You can visit the National Archives and Records Administration online or in person around the country to appreciate the documents of our nation’s history – but sometimes, it takes FOIA to help you realize what’s not on display.  See FOIA Files entries #137, “Govt. record keepers have withdrawn 1 million pages from public view” (Associated Press, 3/14/07) and #12, “Hundreds of items Missing from National Archives” (WTOP/Washington Post, 12/4/04).

Some of you may find yourselves at a barbecue this weekend, planning to enjoy something from the grill. Food-safety stories relying on FOIA over the last decade have exposed problems at various meat-processing facilities and industries, which industry sources say are spurring them to improve their hygiene and practices. See FOIA Files entries #463, “E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection,” (New York Times, 10/3/09) and #299, “Group Releases List of ‘Foul Fowl’ Activities” (Seattle Post blog, 3/28/08) – and for the bigger picture, #164, “Meetings with Food Lobbyists Result in Weakened Rules, Delays” (Center for Science in the Public Interest, 9/29/04) and #326, “Food Industry Bitten by its Lobbying Success” (Associated Press, 7/25/08).

Finally, it is important to remember the Constitution defines and protects a variety of civil rights and liberties, not only establishing our government, but protecting us from its overreach. See FOIA Files entries #462, “Who Is A Terrorist? Government Failure to Define Terrorism Undermines Enforcement, Puts Civil Liberties at Risk” (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, 9/28/09) and #261, “Obscenity Tip Line Does the Constitution Dirty” (Washington Post/Star-Ledger, 7/25/07).

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