March 20th, 2023
Freedom of Information Day
Freedom of Information Day is observed on March 16. March 16 is also the birthday of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, the “Father of the Constitution” and chief author of the Bill of Rights. Freedom of information was very important to James Madison. He was a strong advocate that the government should not keep information from the people it serves.
The Freedom of Information Act was passed into law on July 4, 1966, and was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This act would allow Americans access to federal government information and records, subject to certain exemptions and exclusions. According to the U.S Government Website of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the following are exemptions and exclusions to the Freedom of Information Act:
Exemption One: Classified national defense and foreign relations information.
Exemption Two: Internal agency personnel rules and practices.
Exemption Three: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.
Exemption Four: Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential.
Exemption Five: Inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that are protected by legal privileges.
Exemption Six: Personnel, medical, financial, and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
Exemption Seven: Certain types of information compiled for law enforcement purposes.
Exemption Eight: Records that are contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of any agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.
Exemption Nine: Geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.
(c)(1) Exclusion: Subject of a criminal investigation or proceeding is unaware of the existence of records concerning the pending investigation or proceeding and disclosure of such records would interfere with the investigation or proceeding.
(c)(2) Exclusion: Informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency and the individual’s status as an informant is not known.
(c)(3) Exclusion: Existence of FBI foreign intelligence, counterintelligence or international terrorism records are classified fact.
There have been amendments to this Act over the years. For example, in 1996, President Clinton signed the Electronic Freedom of Information Amendment. The following are some ways one may observe Freedom of Information Day:
- Learn more about the Freedom of Information Act by visiting the FOIA.gov website;
- Learn how to access and request records under the Freedom of Information Act; and
- Exercise your rights under the Act by submitting a request for documents from the government.