(Senate - June 26, 2012)

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[Page S4631]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                       FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, on July 4, the Nation will celebrate the 
46th anniversary of the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act, 
FOIA. The ``right to know'' is a cornerstone of our Democracy. For five 
decades, Americans have counted on FOIA to help shed light on the 
activities of their government.
  As we reach this important milestone, there are many victories to 
celebrate. This week the Senate will enact the Food and Drug 
Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which includes important 
language that I helped craft to protect the public's ability to access 
information under FOIA. Section 710 of that bill will allow the Food 
and Drug Administration, FDA, to obtain information about drug 
inspections and drug investigations undertaken by foreign governments, 
while at the same time ensuring that the American public has access to 
information about potential health and safety dangers. I thank Senators 
Harkin and Enzi and the many open-government and consumer groups--
including and Public Citizen--who worked with me 
to enact this FOIA provision.
  Last year the Senate unanimously passed the Faster FOIA Act, a bill 
that I cosponsored with Republican Senator John Cornyn. This 
legislation would create a bipartisan panel of government and outside 
experts to make recommendations on improving the FOIA process. Sadly, 
despite the overwhelming and bipartisan support for this good-
government legislation, this bill has been languishing in the House of 
Representatives for almost a year.
  During the 3 years since President Obama made a historic commitment 
to restoring the presumption of openness in our government, the Obama 
administration has also taken steps to strengthen FOIA. I especially 
want to commend the Office of Government Information Services--and the 
inaugural Director of the OGIS, Miriam Nisbet--for working with the 
Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce to 
develop an online FOIA Module designed to help agencies better meet 
their requirements under the FOIA. This new FOIA program reaffirms the 
President's commitment to transparency in our government and will make 
government information more accessible to the American people.
  While these and other FOIA accomplishments give us good reasons to 
celebrate, many other threats to the public's right to access 
information under FOIA remain. In the coming weeks the Senate is 
expected to consider several legislative exemptions to FOIA in relation 
to cybersecurity legislation. As this legislative process unfolds, I 
intend to work with Members on both sides of the aisle to ensure that 
the American public's ability to access information about threats to 
their health and safety in cyberspace is protected.
  Securing our Nation's critical infrastructure information is a 
pressing national priority. So, too, is protecting the rights of 
Americans to know what their government is doing. We must strike a 
careful balance between security and openness in our cybersecurity 
policies. The anniversary of FOIA's enactment provides a timely 
reminder of just how important it is for the Congress to get that 
balance right.
  As I have said many time before, open government is neither a 
Democratic issue, nor a Republican issue--it is truly an American value 
and virtue that we all must uphold. It is in this bipartisan spirit 
that I will continue to work to fulfill FOIA's promise of openness in 
our government and that I join all Americans in celebrating the 46th 
anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act.