1946 June 11

Official Secrecy: Administrative Procedure Act Exempts “Secrets” From Public Disclosure


Section 3 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), adopted on this day, set forth procedures for the operations of federal agencies. One clause exempted “secrets” from public disclosure which was required of all agencies. This provision was part of a broad expansion of government secrecy that had begun during World War II and continued to grow during the Cold War years.

Government secrecy was finally challenged by Rep. John E. Moss of California, who began holding hearings on secrecy on November 7, 1955, and continued doggedly for another 13 years. His efforts finally bore fruit with the Freedom of Information Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law on July 4, 1966.

Read the outstanding new book: Michael Schudson, The Rise of the Right to Know: Politics and the Culture of Transparency, 1945-1975 (2015)

Learn more about the Freedom of Information Act: http://www.foia.gov/

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

Learn more about government secrecy and challenges to it: https://www.aclu.org/national-security/secrecy

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