(Senate - June 27, 2013)

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[Page S5485]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, this Independence Day will mark the 47th 
anniversary of the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA. 
For more than four decades, FOIA has translated our great American 
values of openness and accountability into practice, by guaranteeing 
access to government information. In so doing, this premier open 
government law has helped to guarantee the public's ``right to know'' 
for generations of Americans.
  The anniversary of the enactment of FOIA is a timely opportunity to 
take stock of the progress we have made in improving transparency in 
government, as well as the challenges that remain when citizens seek 
information from the Federal Government. Today, we are witnessing an 
erosion of the public's trust in the institutions of government. 
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, trust in the 
Federal Government is at an historic low. In addition, a majority of 
Americans believe that the Federal Government threatens their personal 
rights and freedoms, according to the study.
  To be sure, there are many reasons for the decline in the public's 
trust in the Federal Government. But more importantly, there is a time-
proven cure for this troubling trend--an increase in government 
  To accomplish this, our Federal agencies must commit to the spirit, 
as well as the letter, of the President's pledge to keep the Federal 
Government open and accessible to the American people. While the Obama 
administration has made significant progress in improving the FOIA 
process, too many of our Federal agencies are not keeping up with the 
FOIA reforms that Congress enacted in the OPEN Government Act. A recent 
audit conducted by the National Security Archive found that more than 
half of all Federal agencies have not updated their Freedom of 
Information Act regulations to comply with this law.
  Our Federal Government must also do a better job of balancing the 
need to protect sensitive government information with the equally 
important need to ensure public confidence in our national security 
policies. According to the Associated Press, during the past year, the 
Obama administration withheld more information for national security 
reasons in response to FOIA requests than at any other time since the 
President took office. Of course no one would quibble with the notion 
that some government information must be kept confidential. But as we 
have seen in the unfolding events surrounding the unauthorized 
disclosure of information about the NSA's secret electronic 
surveillance programs, excessive government secrecy can harm both the 
public's trust and our own national interests. That is why I have 
proposed and cosponsored legislation that will provide for greater 
openness and public reporting with regard to these broad surveillance 
authorities, as well as the legal opinions that interpret those 
  As we mark another FOIA anniversary, I join Americans from across the 
political spectrum in celebrating all that this law has come to 
symbolize about our vibrant democracy. After four decades, we have much 
to celebrate about this open government law. We in Congress also have 
much more work to do to help ensure that FOIA's values of openness and 
accountability remain in place for future generations of Americans.