With winds reaching more than 150 miles per hour, Hurricane Katrina devastated the southern United States coastline in late August of this year. It caused billions of dollars in damage. It displaced more than 1 million people from their homes and left an estimated 5 million people without electrical power.
This past summer, journalists received a jolting reminder of the possible consequences for promising confidentiality to a source with the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller. During an investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, a grand jury turned to Miller for answers.
It’s that time again. Nearly a decade has passed since the last major reform of the Freedom of Information Act. Since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act into law in 1966, it has undergone significant reforms about once every 10 years: 1974, 1986 and 1996.
It’s 5 a.m. The daily paper just hit newsstands. On the front page is your article exposing an underground drug ring led by high profile, local kingpins. The story lists names of corrupt police officers, government officials and crime leaders linked to the operation.
OpenTheGovernment.org www.openthegovernment.org As a coalition of more than 40 organizations, OpenTheGovernment.org tries to bring to the forefront issues affecting society and to create safer environments. Among its members are journalists, consumer groups, environmentalists, libraries and legal groups. Along with providing other resources, the organization publishes an annual Secrecy Report Card to measure the current state of secrecy in the federal government.
To test the effectiveness of freedom of information laws, Pulliam-Kilgore interns Katie O’Keefe and Laura Merritt, who were novices in the field of obtaining public records, conducted a mini-FOI audit. They attempted to get information from federal and state prisons of similar security level or size.
August 31st, 2005 • Quill Archives
Lack of training in agencies at core of FOI blunders
For all the freedom of information critics out there, let me say one thing: It could be a lot worse. During my internship at Quill, I talked with journalists who have worked in oppressive and authoritarian areas around the world. Unlike their peers in the United States, I learned that reforming open access legislation is often the least of their concerns.