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. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.Sunshine laws such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and open meetings laws provide essential legal rights and remedies for citizen access to government records and information. FOIA, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 4, 1966 and went into effect one year later, created a "right to know" as the basis for access whereas previously citizens needed to demonstrate a "need to know." As Johnson observed at the time:
This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.On March 15, 2016, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Bill 337 which contains a set of amendments to FOIA that would create a specific presumption of openness as well as other enhancements to government access if signed into law by the President. Further details can be found at the Fix FOIA by 50 Clearinghouse. The need for updates to FOIA is well illustrated by the Electronic Frontier Foundation's compilation of "the worst government responses to public records requests" during the last year.
For further information, the following resources may be of interest: The National Freedom of Information Coalition; The National Security Archive; The Center for Effective Government; The American Civil Liberties Union; The Electronic Frontier Foundation; and, for news of international freedom of information advocacy, FreedomInfo.org.