Beth Daley Impact Fellow
It has been 46 years since President Lyndon Johnson quietly signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law on the Fourth of July, officially giving the public access to federal government records. With thousands upon thousands of requests now processed per year, it’s easy to take this law for granted. But to this day, ordinary citizens must fight to obtain important records—particularly those showing government wrongdoing. In that spirit, here are five important pieces of government information that, without FOIA, would still be hidden from the public.
Here in the District, spring is in the air! Rock Creek Park is abloom, the tourists are out on the Mall, there are mile-long lines to the food trucks, and the sun is shining. At POGO, when we see sunshine, we can't help but consider one of our favorite issues: government transparency. Unfortunately, there's some important government information that’s still sitting in the dark.
This week, the House rejected key amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have prevented rollbacks of oversight at our nation's nuclear weapons labs and would have maintained zero funding for an unnecessary $6 billion plutonium facility.
Eileen Foster, a former senior executive for the national's largest mortgage provider, Countrywide Financial, didn't plan on getting labeled a whistleblower. She was hired to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by company employees. But when she did her job and revealed large-scale fraud within the company—the kind that led to the 2008 financial crash—she was fired for telling the truth.
The FY 2013 Energy and Water and Related Agencies Appropriations bill was released by the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee on April 17. The bill provides annual funding for various programs within the Department of Energy (DOE) and other related agencies—including nuclear weapons programs. Although this is only one subcommittee appropriations bill markup, it is significant that both the Subcommittee and President Obama have concluded that CMRR-NF doesn’t deserve any more money from taxpayers.
Last month, POGO and an extensive list of allies to Panetta and the Department of Health and Human Services asking them to properly implement the public interest balancing test, and release an unredacted version of the ATSDR report, respectively
When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta unveiled his plan to achieve $487 billion in budget cuts over the next ten years, he hinted that a smart strategy would mean cutting the number of nuclear weapons.
Though rare, U.S. presidents have attempted to use the World War I-era Espionage Act to silence Americans from leaking information to the media for decades. It is a charge that is as controversial, as it is grave. This is the law the Nixon administration infamously invoked when attempting to bar the media from continuing to publish the classified Pentagon Papers—the second largest leak of classified information to the press in the U.S., after Wikileaks. Nixon of course, was unsuccessful, and his shattered reputation never recovered.
In tough economic times, whistleblowers play an even more vital role in exposing corporate misconduct and saving taxpayer dollars--but U.S. legislation is still failing to protect a massive segment of people working for the government: contractors.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) came to its senses on Thursday and scrapped a controversial proposal that would model the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on the first rule of Fight Club. Then it backpedaled by saying it has actually been misleading FOIA requesters about the existence of certain documents for the last nearly 25 years--the proposed rule would have just put the practice into its regulations.