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In 1822 James Madison, fourth president of the United States and a primary creator of the democratic principles which form the American system of government, wrote a letter putting forward a basic proposition concerning democracy:

“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 which knowledge gives.”

Passed into law in 1966 and greatly strengthened in 1974, the US Freedom of Information Act is a worthy effort by Congress to breathe life into Madison’s words.

Under this act, a citizen can request access to any records of the executive branch of the federal government. The act provides that those records must be released to the requester unless they are shielded from disclosure by some provision of the Freedom of Information Act itself, or by some other federal law.


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