1966 July 4

LBJ Signs Historic Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)


President Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) at his Texas ranch on this day. He had opposed the bill, but signed it nonetheless. Contrary to a prevalent myth, he did not try to hide his signing of the bill. He issued a signing statement, and the signing was reported in The New York Times. His signing statement did, however, include a clear national security exception to the law.

The true father of the law was Rep. John E. Moss (D-California) who began investigating government secrecy on November 7, 1955 (see also November 11, 1961).

By allowing citizens to obtain records about government actions, FOIA is regarded as one of the most important legislative contributions to democracy in American history. The FOIA bill had virtually unanimous support in Congress. The Senate first approved it on a voice vote without dissent in October 1965 and passed it again on a voice vote in July 1966. The House approved it, 306–0, in late June 1966.

For one –but one very important– example of the value of FOIA in exposing government misconduct, see the FBI’s FOIA page with the files of people it spied on (see the link, below).

Read: Herbert Foerstel, Freedom of Information and the Right to Know: The Origins and Applications of the Freedom of Information Act (1999)

Find documents about the history of FOIA at the National Security Archive:

Learn more: Athan Theoharis, A Culture of Secrecy: The Government Versus the People’s Right to Know (1998)

Use FOIA – Visit the FBI FOIA Pagehttp://www.fbi.gov/foia/

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