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Letters, statements, etc., submitted for the record by-Continued
Stevenson, Russell B., Jr., professor of law, George Washington Universi- Page ty, Washington, D.C.: Prepared statement...
667-680 Taylor, Jack H., Jr., investigative reporter: Prepared statement...
13-18 Wilson, Dr. Joan Hoff, executive secretary, Organization of American Historians: Prepared statement ....
811 811 823
843 847 858 870 881 893 894 907 912 912
a. Association of American Publishers, Inc.
j. Skolnick, Paul....... Appendix 2.-Miscellaneous materials a. Department of Justice guidelines on Freedom of Information Act.
1. Letter dated March 2, 1976, from Attorney General Griffin B.
Bell to heads of all Federal departments and agencies...
liam French Smith to heads of all Federal departments and
brary of Congress.....
closures Made Pursuant to the Federal Freedom of Informa
tion Act, 1972–80: A Compilation,” February 27, 1981..
dom of Information Act: A Capsule Overview 1966-80,” July
13, 1981.... c. Feigenbaum, Edward D., "The Freedom of Information Act As An Aid
to Proposal Analysis," Journal of the Society of Research Adminis
trators, vol. XII, No. 4, spring, 1981.. Appendix 3.-Selected letters to the subcommittee.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT OVERSIGHT
TUESDAY, JULY 14, 1981
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m., in room 2154, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Glenn English (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Glenn English, Ted Weiss, Henry A. Waxman, John Conyers, Jr., Thomas N. Kindness, John N. Erlenborn, and Wendell Bailey.
Also present: Robert Gellman, counsel; Euphon Metzger, clerk; and John Parisi, minority professional staff, Committee on Government Operations.
Mr. ENGLISH. Today we start 3 days of general oversight hearings on the Freedom of Information Act. This month marks an anniversary for the act. It is 15 years old. The original Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1966 after many years of pioneering work by former Congressman John Moss. Major amendments that made the disclosure provisions truly effective were enacted in 1974.
These hearings are especially important because no comprehensive review of the law has taken place since the 1974 amendments. As we begin this process, I would like to state my own views about what is and is not at stake.
First, I do not anticipate that the basic principles of the Freedom of Information Act will be in dispute in these hearings. The importance of the public's right to know has always been recognized as a vital aspect of our system of government. In 200 years, no one has made the case for openness better than James Madison when he wrote:
A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.
I believe that there is widespread agreement of the broad principles of openness in government. One measure of this agreement is likely to be found in the reaffirmations of openness principles made by both supporters and critics of the Freedom of Information Act. For those who are not skilled in identifying the law's critics, let me offer a rule of thumb. The critics are those who believe that the Freedom of Information Act should apply to all information except their own.
Second, while the underlying principles of the act have held up very well over time, some of the law's procedures are in need of revision. In addition, there appear to be some ambiguities that may
need legislative clarification. In short, what we need to do is to fine tune the act. My goal is to make the law fairer and more efficient while minimizing restrictions on disclosure. This can be accomplished without a major revision of the act.
Third, before proposing any changes to the act, it is important that the rationale for these changes be carefully examined. Unsubstantiated allegations of injury or unfairness are not acceptable arguments for amending the law. Those who seek amendments bear the burden of providing adequate justification. Our actions must be based on facts and not on perceptions.
The witnesses for these hearings have been largely self-selected. When the hearings were announced, I issued a general invitation to those with an interest in freedom of information to participate. We have been able to accommodate almost all of those who asked for an opportunity to testify. Anyone else with an interest in the Freedom of Information Act may submit a written statement to be included in the hearing record. The record will remain open until September 1.
Today's witnesses include a number of representatives of the press and press organizations. Tomorrow, the hearing will concentrate on the issues of disclosure of business records under the Freedom of Information Act. Witnesses will include trade associations, corporate attorneys, and public interest groups. The third day of hearings will focus on issues relating to public interest groups. The third day of hearings will focus on issues relating to law enforcement and individual liberties.
I recognize the other members of the committee for any comments that they may wish to make. Mr. Weiss.
Mr. Weiss. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. First let me commend you for scheduling these hearings. I think they are extremely important and certainly timely. Although the Freedom of Information Act has been on the books since 1966 it was not until after the Watergate incident and congressional action in 1974 that the Freedom of Information Act became a viable and meaningful instrument. We are just barely 6 or 7 years past that time, on the receiving end of some very severe pressures to eliminate or exempt some of the most critical agencies from the operation of the act. CIA and FBI have, over the course of the last 1/2 years, been very much in the forefront of those efforts and I am hopeful in the course of these hearings we will be able to underscore the importance of the Freedom of Information Act, not only to some agencies but to all agencies. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ENGLISH. Mr. Waxman, do you have any comment?
Mr. WAXMAN. I also want to commend you for holding these hearings. These are the first oversight hearings since 1974 on the Freedom of Information Act. Issues of fundamental importance to our society will be discussed in these hearings. There is no greater prerequisite to the maintenance of democracy than both openness and accountability by the Government.
If knowledge about the workings of government are beyond the reach of common citizens, then government by the people no longer exists. Moreover, it distinguishes our system of government from authoritarian and totalitarian regimes throughout the world. They would not tolerate the existence of a Freedom of Information Act.
Nevertheless, this statute is under assault by several agencies of the Government itself and by some segments of the business community.
The opponents of the law are waging a vigorous campaign against it. The administration is currently formulating its position. Our hearings will be helpful in reviewing these contentions. Mr. Chairman, let me join you in saying, as one member of the committee, that all who would weaken the act carry the burden of proof to show us the Freedom of Information Act is harmful. If agents have been compromised-bring us the evidence. If businesses have been harmed because of disclosures-show us specific instances.
Only then can we determine whether any such occurrences outweigh the clear benefits the law has provided.
I hope we will not succumb to a barrage of empty rhetoric that the act has impeded Government or business. It is always harder to operate without a mantle of secrecy. But that is what democracy and open government are all about.
Mr. ENGLISH. Our first witnesses this morning will be a panel with Mr. Jack Anderson on behalf of Mutual Broadcasting and Mr. Jim Polk of NBC News on behalf of Investigative Reporters & Editors, Inc. If you gentlemen will come to the witness table, we will be happy to hear your testimony.
Let me thank you gentlemen for taking the time to appear before us and give us your testimony. We are looking forward to it.
STATEMENT OF JACK ANDERSON, ON BEHALF OF MUTUAL
BROADCASTING Mr. ANDERSON. Mr. Chairman, one of the irreversible currents I have observed during 34 years of covering Washington politics is the hankering of our leaders to transform themselves from servants into sovereigns. In earlier times, it was painful for Abraham Lincoln to refer to himself as the President, and he would go through great circumlocutions to get around the phrase. He was one with Thomas Jefferson in glorifying not the government of majesty and omnipotence we see today but, as every schoolboy knows, the government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
There is still an occasional official who lives simply in some Washington hostel and goes about his business with a minimum of pomp, presumption, and freeloading. But the common practice has been to pursue aggrandizement and usurpation, often with mock humility
Permeating it all is the aura of psuedodivinity with which Government these days surrounds itself-its denial, whenever it can get away with it, of the right of the citizen to know or of the press to publish; its reflex hostility to every attempt to hold it to account or to question its motives.
Our modern Hohenzollerns reveal themselves most characteristically when a reporter charges the Government with deceit or dishonesty, or presumes to give the public news that does not come from palace sources. Then our elected leaders, instead of rushing to correct the abuses, are concerned more with chastening the reporter and exposing the identity of the varlets who squealed.