The measure I sign today, S. 1160, revises Section 3 of the
Administrative Procedures Act to provide guidelines for the public availability
of the records of Federal departments and agencies.
This legislation springs from one of our more essential principles:
a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the
security of the nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains
of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the
At the same time, the welfare of the Nation or the rights of individuals
may require that some documents not be made available. As long as
threats to peace exist, for example, there must be military secrets.
A citizen must be able in confidence to complain to his government and
to provide information, just as he is -- and should be -- free to confide
in the press without fear of reprisal or of being required to reveal or
discuss his sources.
Fairness to individuals also requires that information accumulated in
personnel files be protected from disclosure. Officials within government
must be able to communicate with one another fully and frankly without
publicity. They cannot operate effectively if required to disclose
information prematurely or to make public investigative files and internal
instructions that guide them in arriving at their decisions.
I know that the sponsors of this bill recognize these important interests
and intend to provide for both the need of the public for access to information
and the need of government to protect certain categories of information.
Both are vital to the welfare of our people. Moreover, this bill
in no way impairs the President's power under our Constitution to provide
for confidentiality when the national interest so requires. There
are some who have expressed concern that the language of this bill will
be construed in such a way as to impair government operations. I
do not share this concern.
I have always believed that freedom of information is so
vital that only the national security, not the desire of public officials
or private citizens, should determine when it must be restricted.
I am hopeful that the needs I have mentioned can be served by a constructive
approach to the wording and spirit and legislative history of this measure.
I am instructing every official in this Administration to cooperate to
this end and to make information available to the full extent consistent
with individual privacy and with the national interest.
I signed this measure with a deep sense of pride that the United States
is an open society in which the people's right to know is cherished and