The right to know about the actions of government is now an important part of
America’s democratic heritage.
The legal basis of this right was established on July 4, 1966, when President
Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act. In 1974, FOIA was strengthened
with the passage of key amendments. A new measure, which would apply FOIA
principles to electronic records, has been passed by House and Senate committees
in the 104th Congress.
Journalists have used the act for more than three decades to generate
thousands of news stories, including some of the most important exposés of our
time. Using FOIA, journalists have held government accountable, exposed crime,
and helped shape American public policy in major ways.
Many people inside the government, legislators as well as enlightened federal
administrators, contributed to FOIA’s creation and implementation. Others,
including presidents and some in Congress, have unsuccessfully sought to weaken
FOIA. In part, it has been the vigilance of news organizations and journalists,
supported by enlightened federal leaders, that has preserved the act.
A coalition of media organizations joined in 1996 to commemorate the 30th
anniversary of FOIA. One goal is to develop a plan for expanding the rights of
Americans to know about their government’s actions. Another is to recognize key
individuals who have demonstrated strong leadership in connection with FOIA.
These men and women have developed and defended federal legislation, ensuring
the right of the American public to know about the actions of its government and
helping journalists use the act in their work.
The following individuals are honored for their unique roles in helping to
establish, defend and utilize the legal basis for the right to know. Following
James Madison's special tribute, they are listed in alphabetical order.
Class of 1996 — Charter members
Samuel J. Archibald
U.S. Sen. Hank Brown
Harold L. Cross
Lucy A. Dalglish
U.S. Rep. Dante Fascell
William H. Hornby
Jane E. Kirtley
Jack C. Landau
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy
U.S. Sen. Edward Long
Paul K. McMasters
U.S. Rep. John E. Moss
J. Edward Murray
Virgil M. Newton Jr.
Jean H. Otto
James S. Pope
Harold C. Relyea
Bruce W. Sanford
Richard M. Schmidt Jr.
Sheryl L. Walter
J. Russell Wiggins
Class of 2001
U.S. Rep. Don Edwards
John R. Finnegan Sr.
Harry A. Hammitt
Beryl A. Howell
John D. Podesta
J. Laurent Scharff
Class of 2006
Thomas S. Blanton
Hodding Carter III
Morton H. Halperin
Charles W. Hinkle
Kathleen A. Kirby
Susan B. Long
Robert D. Lystad
John E. Pike
Ronald L. Plesser
A. Bryan Siebert
Thomas M. Susman