Fifty Years of FOIA in Operation 1967-2017

By Professor Tuan Samahon

On Independence Day, July 4, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law. Announcing the occasion from his “Texas White House” outside San Antonio, LBJ explained: “[t]his legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the nation permits.” Unfortunately, the press release’s pro-transparency sentiment was mostly atmospheric window dressing. The foul-mouthed LBJ privately despised FOIA and signed “the f——— thing,” as he called it, only with much cajoling and at the last moment possible, narrowly avoiding its pocket veto.

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