Letter: Senators Warner and Allen on FOIA Reform

March 17, 2005

Senators Warner and Allen

James Landrith
PO Box 8208
Alexandria, VA 22306-8208

March 17, 2005

The Honorable John William Warner
United States Senate
225 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4601

The Honorable George F. Allen
United States Senate
204 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4604

Dear Senators Warner and Allen:

As your constituent, I urge you to support the “Openness Promotes Effectiveness in Our National Government Act,” (S. 394) which includes a series of much-needed corrections to policies that have eroded Freedom of Information Act. The principle of open government is a core American value. It should not be set aside for reasons other than genuine necessity.

I have read that the act provides reasonable improvements to the Freedom of Information Act. The act would set enforceable time limits for agencies to respond to requests, implement news media status rules that recognize the reality of freelance journalists and the Internet, and provide strong incentives for agency employees to improve FOIA compliance.

I believe these reforms are necessary to stop a growing trend towards secrecy. As J. William Leonard, director of the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office told a House panel last year, “It is no secret that government classifies too much information,” and the amount of materials that should not be classified at all “is disturbingly increasing.” This trend needs to be stopped. False claims of government secrecy have distorted our history, hidden government error, and created a gulf between the government and the public.

As a former Marine, who believes in a free and open society, I find the current trend towards classifying anything controversial as secret or top secret to be akin to the tactics of the communist nations we defeated in the Cold War. The Administration and Congress have no business adopting the tactics of failed dictators and defunct political systems.

Revising our current procedures would not result in truly sensitive information being handed out. The government would still be able to limit the release of sensitive information so national security is not endangered. However, this legislation would reduce the propensity of government employees to classify embarrassing information to prevent its release.

Once again, as a Cold War veteran, I urge you to support “Openness Promotes Effectiveness in Our National Government Act,” (S. 394).

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.


James Landrith

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