On July 4, 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a federal freedom of information law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the U.S. government. It became law the following year. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures, and grants nine exemptions to the statute.
"With the ongoing stress on both constitutional and inherent rights of American citizens and the added assertion of government subservience to the individual, some thought it was necessary for government information to be available to the public.
"However, due to the sensitivity of some government information and private interests, others believed that certain types of government information should remain secret. Therefore, Congress attempted to enact a Freedom of Information Act in 1966 that would effectively deal with requests for government records, consistent with the belief that the people have the “right to know” about them. The Privacy Act of 1974 additionally covered government documents charting individuals.
"However, it is in the exemptions to solicitation of information under these acts that problems and discrepancies arise. The nine exemptions to the FOIA address issues of sensitivity and personal rights. They are (as listed in Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552):
- (A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order;
- related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency;
- specifically exempted from disclosure by statute (other than section 552b of this title), provided that such statute (A) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue, or (B) establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld; FOIA Exemption 3 Statutes
- trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential;
- inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency;
- personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
- records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual;
- contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions; or
- geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells" (Wikipedia article on Freedom of Information Act, accessed 11-03-2013).