About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

5 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 1 (1970)
Freedom from Information: The Act and the Agencies

handle is hein.journals/hcrcl5 and id is 7 raw text is: ARTICLES
by Ralph Nader*
Although the Freedom of Information Act was intended to compel
agency openness, Mr. Nader argues that the agencies are still unre-
sponsive to citizen inquiry; they are, in effect, baronies beyond the
law. This disparity between aim and achievement of the Act is dis-
cussed in the context of empirical studies led by the author and
conducted by, in the poetry of journalism, Nader's Raiders. 
A well informed citizenry is the lifeblood of democracy; and in all
arenas of government, information, particularly timely information, is the
currency of power. The critical role of information is illustrated by the
reply of the Washington lawyer who was asked how he prevailed on behalf
of his clients: I get my information a few hours ahead of the rest.
In our polity, where the ultimate power is said to rest with the people,
a free and prompt flow of information from government to people is
essential to achieve the reality of citizen access to a more just govern-
mental process. It is especially essential to provide this informational flow
in the Washington regulatory agencies, which are essentially unaccountable
to any electorate or constituency. With these truths in mind, Congress
passed, after a decade of temporizing, the Freedom of Information Act in
1966.' When President Johnson signed the bill into law on July 4, 1966,
he stated its moving principle: I have always believed that freedom of
information is so vital that only the national security, not the desire of
public officials or private citizens, should determine when it must be
*A.B. Princeton University; L.L.B. Harvard University; Managing Trustee of the
Center for the Study of Responsive Law, Washington, D.C.
This article is adapted from a statement by Mr. Nader released publicly on
August 26, 1969. Special acknowledgement is made to Gary Sellers, Reuben Robert-
son, John Esposito, Harrison Wellford, James Turner and Robert Felimeth for the
data they and numerous students collected while studying various agencies last sum-
mer; see infra note 5.
1 5 U.S.C. § 552 (Supp. II, 1967) [hereinafter cited as FOIA]. The Act became
effective on July 4, 1967.
2 Statement by President Lyndon Johnson upon signing Pub. L. No. 89-487, July
4, 1966.

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing nearly 3,000 academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.

Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline with pricing starting as low as $29.95

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most