Staff Editorial: Government too slow in keeping records open

As the nation ramps up for Independence Day celebrations, the federal government has demonstrated that sometimes it isn’t the pinnacle of freedom that it clams to be.

Seventeen requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act have gone more than 15 years without disclosure, the New York Times reported, citing a survey conducted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on government negligence with FOIA compliance.

Malfeasance of this nature is unacceptable. The FOIA, implemented in 1967, allows citizens access to government documents ranging from public salaries to clandestine operations.

Despite the FOIA’s intent of increasing transparency, 10 requests to the Department of State filed before 1991 have still gone unanswered.

The survey also revealed that some government offices falsely presented the status of FOIA requests before Congress. Misrepresentation such as this does nothing to advance the government’s position, and can only tarnish its reputation and raise further questions.

Openness should be a top priority in an era when many chide the government for heightened secrecy.

In light of the approaching Fourth of July, we should remember that freedom doesn’t only apply to the traditional guarantees outlined in the Constitution, and that an open government can reflect a healthy society.

Freedom also encompasses the dissemination of information and the ability of private citizens to hold their government accountable.

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