Quotes on Government Secrecy

Secrecy“The basic purpose of FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.”
United States Supreme Court in NLRB v. Robbins Tire Co., 437 U.S. 214, 242 (1978)

“Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.”
Lord Acton

“Examining public records should never require extraordinary legal or bureaucratic efforts. When it does, it’s usually a red flag.”
Don Baldwin

“Sunshine is the greatest disinfectant”
Louis D. Brandeis

“The struggle of the government’s need for secrecy versus the public’s right to know and the press’s duty to find out and tell is unending. Too frequently it is discussed in public print in connection with the misguided efforts of a bureaucrat to cover up stupidity or wrongdoing. It deserves more serious consideration for it raises Fundamental questions about government-press relations in a time of international peril — a condition likely to continue for the indefinite future.”
Douglas Cater

“In America, the government belongs to the people. Inherent in our system of self-government is the idea that the People have the right to know what our government and government officials are doing and to hold them accountable for their actions. State and federal freedom of information (or “sunshine”) laws, which include laws that guarantee access to both public meetings and public records, are one of the primary ways of ensuring such accountability.”
Citizen Access Project

“Nothing so diminishes democracy as secrecy.”
Ramsey Clark

“Far too often when citizens seek records from our government, they are met with long delays, denials and difficulty. Federal agencies can routinely and repeatedly deny requests for information with near impunity. Making the situation worse, requesters have few alternatives to lawsuits to appeal an agency’s decision.”
John Cornyn

“As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.”
Benjamin Disraeli

“Information is our most valuable commodity.”
Gordon Gekko

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
Patrick Henry

“…assurances mean little without accurate information and accountability. The principle that government information belongs to the people is more than a quaint idea.”
Joy Horowitz

“This law wasn’t designed to make your job easy. It was designed to keep your actions legal.”
Ray Don Jackson

“The same prudence, which, in private life, would forbid our paying our money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the disposition of public moneys.”
Thomas Jefferson

“Information is the currency of democracy.”
Thomas Jefferson

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their government, for whenever things go so far wrong as to attract their notice, they can be relied on to set thing right.”
Thomas Jefferson

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (“Who watches the watchers?”)
Juvenal, Satire VI

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“It’s no secret that the government keeps too many secrets.”
Bill Leanord

“There’s something about official life that makes people want to have power. And secrecy is power.”
Anthony Lewis

“Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe.”
Abraham Lincoln

“A government by secrecy benefits no one. It injures the people it seeks to serve; it damages its own integrity and operation. It breeds distrust, dampens the fervor of its citizens and mocks their loyalty.”
Russell Long

“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 knowledge gives.”
James Madisom

“Terrorists don’t use the Freedom of Information Act. They don’t have the time.”
Paul McMasters

“When the state constitution grants each citizen an “inalienable right” to “privacy,” it’s talking about individuals seeking safety from an overreaching government, not an elected official trying to evade the oversight of constituents. It’s the difference between seeking protection from tyranny and seeking protection from democracy.”
Jon Mendelson

“News is what people want to keep hidden and everything else is publicity.”
Bill Moyers

“Secrecy is the freedom zealots dream of: no watchman to check the door, no accountant to check the books, no judge to check the law. The secret government has no constitution. The rules it follows are the rules it makes up.”
Bill Moyers

“Secrecy is for losers.”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

“This is not a matter of red versus blue. Conservatives desire a government that does not exceed its legitimate authority. Liberals desire a government that is accountable and responsive to the needs of the public. But secrecy thwarts both of those desires.”
James Neff

“When information which properly belongs to the public is systematically withheld by those in power, the people soon become ignorant of their own affairs, distrustful of those who manage them, and — eventually — incapable of determining their own destinies.”
Richard M. Nixon

“Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits and do our business in the light of day.”
Barack Obama

“A fundamental premise of American democratic theory is that government exists to serve the people. … Public records are one portal through which the people observe their government, ensuring its accountability, integrity, and equity while minimizing sovereign mischief and malfeasance”
Sandra Day O’Conner

“Government that is open and honest will always be able to withstand the light of day.”
Rick Perry

“A country whose population has been trained to accept the government’s word and to shun those who question it is a country without liberty in its future.”
Paul Craig Roberts

“The public has a right to know about misconduct by public officials who are paid for with public tax dollars.”
Mark Schlosberg

“Power corrupts, and there is nothing more corrupting than power exercised in secret.”
Daniel Schorr

“Freedom of information isn’t always pretty, and it’s also not without its risks. But in a free society, there will always be risk and imperfection.”
Santa Cruz Sentinal

“Transparency is Big Government’s worst enemy.”
Mark Tapscott

“We do not elect a ’just trust me’ government.”
Troy Turner

“At its core, Freedom of Information (FOI) laws are intended to restore/preserve the proper relation between the citizens and their employees “the acting government”.”
Frank Vera

“To sift truth from error at best requires an effort; where there is no great advantage for the former, the latter often prevails, as errors are infinite, simple, and attractive—and many a fancy lends support to established position—while truth is one and often stern. The imperial order, itself irrational and hence distrusting reason, excels in credulity and superstition.”
Robert G. Wesson

“Anxiety concerning public safety should not become a canard for creating an exemption. To require the public to obtain information on a piecemeal basis does nothing to promote the legislative concerns that have been mandated to our Freedom of Information statute. Open government is not promoted when the public is required to sift through the voluminous documents in various departments and a municipality can counter this by pushbutton automation.”

Stephen Whitaker

“Public records should be organized such that they may be produced within at most a few days of your request. Period.”
Peyton Wolcott

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