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The Public’s Right to Know

“The effective functioning of a free government like ours depends largely on the force of an informed public opinion. This calls for the widest possible understanding of the quality of government service rendered by all elective or appointed public officials or employees.” Justice Black, Barr v. Matteo Printer version

All federal agencies are generally required under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to disclose records, requested in writing, by any person. However, agencies may withhold information that falls within nine exemptions and three exclusions contained in the statute.

FOIA Pamphlet

A Citizen's Guide to the FOIA (2005) A guide to both the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act prepared by the House Committee on Government Reform.

* PA has new Open Records office as of Jan.1, 2009. Your Government, Your Right to Know

* Pennsylvania Office of Open Records web site

* “A record 15.6 million documents were classified last year, nearly double the number in 2001, according to the federal Information Security Oversight Office.”1

"Today there is much debate about how much information should be released, to whom it should be given, and whether the requestor should have to pay for a copy of the information.

The increasing secrecy - and its rising cost to taxpayers, estimated by the office at $7.2 billion last year - is drawing protests from a growing array of politicians and activists, including Republican members of Congress, leaders of the independent commission that studied the Sept. 11 attacks and even the top federal official who oversees classification."1

* Transparency bill subjected to secrecy

This is not only a federal issue. Many states and commonwealths have Right to Know laws. Pennsylvania's House of Representatives thwarts efforts to find out information about their spending by making the processes exceedingly onerous. Pa. legislators shut door on 'open government'.

Should government (at all levels) release to the public all facts, figures, reports, plans and information?

Write a persuasive essay supporting the disclosure of information. Include where you would draw the line.
Justify the limits you would set.

"The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy; the best weapon of a democracy is openness." Edvard Teller

1 Increase in the Number of Documents Classified by the Government, New York Times, By SCOTT SHANE Published: July 3, 2005

National Constitution Center - Interactive Constitution

* Pennsylvania's open records law has been ranked as one of the worst in the country - Pennsylvania Newspaper Association

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posted 9/2006, utd 3/09 In the spirit of Thomas Paine - released to public domain by Cynthia J. O'Hora

Aligned with the following Pa Academic Standards - Reading, Writing Speaking, History, Civics and Government, Mathematics, Civics, Science and Technology
Aligned with the National Standards for Civics and Government

tree icon Save a tree - use a digital answer format - Highlight the text. Copy it. Paste it in a word processing document. Save the document in your folder. Put your name and the date in a header. Answer on the word processing document in a contrasting color (not yellow) or font (avoid symbol, blackmore, brodfont dear or other ornate artistic fonts). Save frequently as you work. I do not like losing mine. You will not like it either. Submit your response via a class drop box or email. Bad things happen: Save a copy of your work on your computer.

Or perhaps you have the resources to record verbal answers. If you do, be sure to first read / record the question. Then record the answer immediately after it.
Make your own answer sheet.

Proof read your responses. It is funny how speling errors and typeos sneak in to the bets worck. smiling icon