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FOIA’s 40th anniversary, future and current uses

On June 30, 2006, the National Press Club will host a panel discussion on the future of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in celebration of the 40th anniversary of this important tool of accountability. The discussion will include talk of FOIA’s future.

Today saw two stories on how FOIA is being used now. Serious problems at one of the few manufacturering plants for flu vaccine were revealed, thanks to a FOIA request from the San Francisco Chronicle. Although the ability of companies to produce flu vaccine is of intense interest to a nation worried about pandemic influenza, this isn’t a report the government would have released on its own. When were we supposed to find out?

The other FOIA story of note is one from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press exploring the interaction of Texas’ State FOIA law with the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Apparently under some seemingly justifiable circumstances, the state’s open records act trumps HIPAA.

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