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The FOIA Situation

Charles Rector's Weblog; Jun. 12, 2012; By Charles Rector
Type: Editorial

Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA's) are supposed to enable citizens and journalists alike to find out just what their state & local governments are doing with their taxpayers dollars.  However, in actual practice, bureaucrats are getting away with murder.  There are too many exemptions to these FOIA's and poorly written clauses are being increasingly exploited by bureaucrats to unjustly withhold documents from the public.

All of this raises an important question.  How much damage does this situation inflict upon the public's right to know?

Even worse, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 gave politicians an excuse to pass a whole raft of state secrecy laws.  According to a 2006 study by the Associated Press, this amounted to a whopping 616 new laws that restricted the public's right to know in the name of security.  Furthermore, there were over 170 additional exemptions for non-security mattes added to state FOIA's and over 50 exemptions to state FOIA's  claimed by state agencies even though statuatory authority were lacking for these agencies to do so.  Many of these provisions have the potential to prevent the public from knowing that complaints have been filed against licensed professionals.

What regular folks need to do is understand is that open record laws are in everybody's interest, not just jerky journalist types.

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