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2001 FOI Day conference overview

The 2001 National Freedom of Information Day conference was held March 16 at the Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va.

The convergence of two anniversary observances added special meaning to the annual conference. The year marked the 35th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act, and March 16, 2001, was the 250th birthday observance for James Madison, regarded as the Father of the Constitution as well as the foremost advocate for openness in government. Madison's birth date has been observed for many years as National Freedom of Information Day.

The 2001 conference was titled, "Access, Privacy and Security: A Troubled Tangle."

"Americans and their leaders today are struggling to reconcile the need to protect personal privacy and national security with the democratic imperative of maximum access to government information," said Freedom Forum First Amendment Ombudsman Paul McMasters.

Some of the more important features of the 2001 National FOI Day conference included:

  • Former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta heading up a list of 27 distinguished speakers and presenters.

  • Panel discussions of two important access issues: Efforts to pass a law punishing the leaking of secret information to the public and press, and controversy over making court records widely available over the Internet.

  • Reports on access developments and trends in the Clinton administration, Congress, the courts, and government secrecy, as well as in international, state and local laws and policies.

  • A special analysis of more than 20 audits of sunshine laws compliance.

  • Briefings on four important freedom-of-information initiatives at the federal and state levels.

  • A strategy statement on access to government information, drafted by a committee representing major FOI-related organizations, to be presented as a blueprint for improving policies and laws and building support for the principle of access.

The annual conference is sponsored by the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center in cooperation with the American Library Association. The conference also is endorsed by a coalition of more than 30 FOI-related organizations.

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